Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. The most common location for shingles is a band, called a dermatome, spanning one side of the trunk around the waistline. Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for shingles. After the shingles rash goes away, some people may be left with ongoing pain called post-herpetic neuralgia or PHN. The pain is felt in the area where the rash had been.
Antiviral medication may also reduce the risk of continuing pain after the rash has settled (a complication of shingles called post-herpetic neuralgia, see below). Shingles is also called herpes zoster. It is most common in people over 50 years of age, but young people can get it as well. Shingles are caused by varicella-zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve ever had chickenpox (typically during childhood), this virus is quietly hiding out in the roots of your nerves. It can reactivate and cause a painful skin rash. This is known as shingles or herpes zoster.
The same virus also causes herpes zoster, or shingles, in adults.