Shingles and Chickenpox

Also known as: zoster, herpes zoster, varicella-zoster

What are shingles and chickenpox?

Both chickenpox and shingles are caused by exposure to the varicella-zoster virus. The red, itchy bumps that cover the body with chickenpox tend to occur in childhood if a person is not vaccinated for the chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the body and can reactivate in adulthood as a red, painful rash known as shingles.

What might cause shingles and chickenpox?

Both symptoms are caused by exposure to the varicella-zoster virus in individuals who were not previously immunized for chickenpox. In unvaccinated people, direct exposure to chickenpox or the open sores of shingles can cause the exposed individual to develop chickenpox. Shingles rashes do not occur until many years after exposure to the varicella-zoster virus.

How can they be treated?

Both chickenpox and shingles vaccines are available to prevent these symptoms. Chickenpox vaccine is now a routine child immunization, and shingles vaccine is available for adults age 50 and over.  

When should you seek medical attention? 

See your doctor if you exhibit the signs of either chickenpox or shingles.

Reviewed by: Otto Ramos, MD

This page was last updated on: February 06, 2020 03:15 PM