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Diseases & Conditions
Answers to common questions about shingles
This painful condition is unique in many ways. Our expert explains how it works and how to prevent it.
Shingles is definitely an illness to avoid if you can. Known for its blistering rash, shingles is uncomfortable and sometimes leads to long-lasting complications, including a painful nerve condition called postherpetic neuralgia. While it can affect people of any age, including children, it’s most likely to strike after age 60.
Shingles is also somewhat unusual. It’s caused by a virus that has often been living inside the body for decades. That means it differs from most viral infections in how you get it and how you can prevent it. We asked Michael Starnbach, a professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, to answer some common questions about shingles. Below are his responses.
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About the Author
Kelly Bilodeau, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
You might also be interested in…
This Harvard Medical School Guide takes a detailed look at shingles and the virus that causes
it—its symptoms, how it’s transmitted, how to reduce your chances of getting it, and how to manage the condition if you do get sick.
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