What Actually Causes Shingles—and How You Can Prevent It

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Not everyone who has chickenpox as a kid ends up with this painful reactivation of the varicella zoster virus as an adult.

If you’ve seen lots of ads for Shingrix, a new shingles vaccine, that’s because shingles, caused by a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus (which also causes chickenpox), is preventable, provided you’re up to date on your vaccines.

While not everyone who has chickenpox as a kid will see it reappear as shingles as adults, one in three people will experience shingles over the course of a lifetime.

How do you know if have shingles? The symptoms begin as an itching, burning feeling that occurs either on the left or right side of your torso followed by a painful rash (which can sometimes be accompanied by a headache and a low fever). Then fluid-filled blisters appear, says Eric Grahling, MD, a pain management expert in Plainville, Connecticut.

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