Shingles can be devastating. But you can prevent it, treat it, and minimize its long-term effects.
Pretty much 100% of older Americans have had chickenpox. They might have had mild cases they didn't recognize. That puts us all at risk for shingles, a serious adult condition caused by the same virus, known as varicella-zoster. Prior to the availability of a vaccine, about a third of people over 60 got shingles, and half of people 85 or older had already had an attack.
How shingles develops
Chickenpox may last about 10 days, but the culprit virus can remain inside us forever. It retreats into a sensory ganglion—a cluster of cells that transmit sensations from a region of the body to the spinal cord and brain. If the virus reactivates, it spreads along the associated sensory nerves on one side of the body to cause a painful rash of blisters we know as shingles.
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