What is shingles?

How Shingles Can Affect Your Body

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.

After you have chickenpox, the virus that caused it, called varicella-zoster virus, remains in your body. It's always inside you, lying dormant (or asleep) in your nerve cells. At some point later in life, your immune system may weaken, allowing the virus to resurface as Shingles. You may be feeling great, but if you've had chickenpox, the Shingles virus is already inside you. And your risk for Shingles increases as you get older.

The Shingles rash usually affects only one of the parts of the body shown below.

Most often, the Shingles rash occurs in a band or strip on one side of the body. This band is called a dermatome, which is the area where one of the nerves from your spinal cord connects with the skin. Each dermatome is located on one side of the body. Shingles usually appears along a single dermatome. Shingles may also appear on a single side of the face, for example, in the area around the eye and the forehead. But Shingles can strike any dermatome on the body.

Roll over the dots to see actual photos of the Shingles rash.
Typically, Shingles only happens in one of these places.
Where Can the Shingles Rash Appear on the Body

Next: What to Expect With Shingles

Learn the stages of Shingles, from the first tingling to the breakout of the painful rash.