Herpes Zoster (Shingles) is caused by the same virus as chicken pox. After an infection of Chicken Pox, the virus remains dormant (inactive) within certain nerve cells of the body. While Shingles is more common on the torso, it can attack any nerve in the body. Anyone who has had Chicken Pox as a child can get Shingles (Herpes Zoster).
It is not clear what reactivates the virus, but when it does awaken, the Shingles virus will move along a nerve fiber toward the skin, and small clusters of blisters will erupt along the length of the nerve, which can be very painful. Although Shingles can occur in children, it is more common in people over the age of fifty. However, after one attack, the Shingles virus does not reoccur.
Shingles usually clear in a few weeks but, in some cases, the virus can last longer. When diagnosed early the antiviral medications are very effective. In addition to clearing the skin, the medication can prevent the post-herpetic neuralgia (pain, numbness & tingling symptoms) which can sometimes be very long-lasting.
The earlier treatment is initiated, the better.