Nearly one out of three adults will develop a disease called shingles at some point in their lives. It is more common in older adults and in people who have weakened immune systems due to aging.
In addition, medical conditions like HIV or leukemia that weaken the immune system, immunosuppressive medications, or the prolonged use of certain steroids can be factors.
About l million people in the U.S. get shingles each year according to the CDC. Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash which can occur anywhere on your body, but is most often found as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of your torso. Sometimes the shingles rash occurs around one eye or on one side of the neck or face. It isn't considered a life-threatening condition under normal circumstances, but it can be very painful and debilitating.
The shingles virus is known as herpes zoster and is something that many people carry without ever realizing it. It is also connected to chicken pox as both afflictions stem from the same virus.
After a case of chicken pox, the virus enters your nervous system and there it can lie dormant for years. Eventually, it may reactivate and travel along nerve pathways to your skin where it can produce shingles.
The timetable for shingles symptoms may vary greatly, but these usually fall off within two to three weeks. Although most patients with shingles will only experience one episode, it is possible for someone to fall victim to it a second time, and even in rare cases, a third time. It is not completely understood why the virus remains in the nervous system, and then all of a sudden becomes activated again.
There are now vaccines available to help prevent shingles. A vaccination doesn't necessarily guarantee that you won't get shingles, but the vaccine will likely reduce the course and severity of the disease.