What is Shingles?
Shingles is an infectious disease caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox: the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Anyone who has had chicken pox is susceptible to shingles; however, it most commonly occurs in women over 40. Shingles is caused by residual particles in the nerves that can be “re-activated” by another exposure to the virus. When this happens, the person often breaks out into an uncomfortable rash.
Shingles causes nerve pain, which may feel like burning or itching. It may also cause lesions to develop on the body. Symptoms may last for a few weeks or months.
Shingles and Chronic Pain
For some people, the pain of shingles persists long after the shingles lesions have healed. This condition is called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN. Postherpetic neuralgia causes moderate to severe nerve pain that may last for months or years. Like many types of neuropathic pain, postherpetic neuralgia can be difficult to treat.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Shingles: Hope Through Research. Accessed 12/2/09. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shingles/detail_shingles.htm
VZV Research Foundation. Shingles and PHN: Your Questions Answered. 2000.