Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. The varicella-zoster virus causes the condition. Unlike other viruses, the shingles virus can remain dormant for decades with no symptoms. Although shingles is not life-threatening, its effects can be painful. One of the first signs is a burning, itching or tingling sensation where the rash will form. You may also experience headache, nausea, fever, and sensitivity to touch. Ultimately, a red rash will appear. The fluid-filled blisters will scab over and begin to heal. There are many different causes of shingles -- conditions or symptoms that encourage the virus to reemerge.
The same virus that causes chickenpox also causes shingles. If you've ever had chickenpox, even as a child, then you have the shingles virus already in your body. The shingles virus will remain dormant in nerve tissue until something causes it to reactivate. The virus is considered opportunistic in that it strikes when your immune system is weakened.
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