Understanding shingles

Each year, nearly 1 million people get shingles, which is a painful skin rash that comes from the same virus that causes chickenpox. The next three articles will explore the causes, complications and ways a person can protect themselves from this disease.

It started out as a couple of red bumps on my back that looked and felt like bug bites, but instead of the bumps going away, they continued to multiply over the next couple of days. Pretty soon I had a red, blistery rash that not only itched but was also very painful, and that’s when I became concerned. When a friend told me my rash looked like shingles I decided it was time to see a doctor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one out of three people, in the United States, will develop shingles. On April 29, a doctor confirmed that I was the “one out of three” with shingles.

What is shingles? Shingles is a painful rash caused by a reactivation of the chickenpox virus and is distinctive because it usually only affects one side of the body. According to NIH Senior Health, the early signs of shingles develops in three stages: severe pain or tingling, a possible itchy rash, followed with blisters that look like chickenpox. It is estimated that there are nearly 1 million cases of shingles each year in this country. Half of all cases affect men and women over the age of 60.

In order to better understand this disease, I will be doing a series of three news articles that will look more closely at the following:

  1. What causes shingles and what are some of the complications associated with this disease?
  2. What can I expect if I have a shingles outbreak?
  3. Can I avoid shingles? What can I do to protect myself against the disease?
Other articles in this series:

If you, or someone you know, thinks they might have shingles, Michigan State University Extension recommends immediately contacting your healthcare provider.

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