Did you know that the virus that causes chicken pox, the varicella-zoster virus, never actually leaves your body? It lies dormant from the time you get the illness, in nerve cells alongside your spinal cord.
The virus won’t give you another case of chicken pox, but it isn’t harmless. Many people, about 80% of us, will live their whole lives without suffering the effects of the virus a second time, but others less fortunate get herpes zoster, otherwise known as shingles.
Shingles is a nerve and skin infection, and, unfortunately, it can be excruciatingly painful. Also, shingles can cause neural damage, killing nerve cells as it travels along nerves.
There’s no cure for shingles, but early treatment will reduce your symptoms and the duration of the infection. The earliest symptoms to look for are headache, sensitivity to light, and flu-like symptoms minus the fever. Next, you may feel itching, tingling, or outright pain in an area where a rash will soon develop, possibly several days later. The rash, following the path of the affected nerve, will be band-like, like a belt. Most often it occurs on the back, neck, and face. Some people develop fluid-filled blisters.