Harvard Men's Health Watch

Shaking off shingles

This painful condition is more likely to attack as you age, and it can raise your risk for chronic pain, stroke, and other problems.

A common childhood illness can return to cause serious health issues later in life. Shingles is a disease caused by the same varicella-zoster virus that triggers childhood chickenpox.

"All adult Americans who were exposed to chickenpox can develop shingles. In fact, one in three is predicted to get shingles at some point," says Dr. Anne Louise Oaklander, director of the Nerve Unit at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

After chickenpox has disappeared, the virus lies dormant in nerve cells near the spinal cord and brain. Years later, as your immunity weakens during normal aging or from illness or medications, the virus often re-emerges.

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