You get shingles if the virus you carry after having chickenpox is reactivated, most of us get chickenpox as children. Chickenpox rarely becomes serious and usually goes away on its own after a few weeks. But after having chickenpox, the virus remains, dormant in the nerve roots for life. There, the virus is held back by our immune system and most of us never notice it again. But with increasing age, the immune system weakens and the virus can then be reactivated and migrate along a nerve to the skin. There, it causes fluid-filled, itchy, often painful blisters. You then got shingles.
Not a new infection
Shingles is not caused by a new infection or contact with the virus via someone who is sick with shingles, it is instead their own, old infection that comes to life again. If you have shingles, you can infect people who have not had chickenpox before so that they get chickenpox. But you do not get shingles from someone who has chickenpox.
Almost everyone who grew up in Sweden has had chickenpox and thus risks getting shingles. Every fourth person is affected at some point in life.
The most common is that shingles occurs in an area of the upper body, but the rash can occur anywhere on the body. Within 2 to 4 weeks, the blisters usually dry in, and the crusts fall off. Then even the pain usually comes with it. But sometimes shingles can cause nerve damage and the pain stays in place even after the blisters have healed.
Sometimes the disease affects the eye, which can then become red, sensitive to light and feel dry. If the eye is affected by the virus, it can have very serious consequences such as visual impairment or blindness. If you suspect that you have shingles near your eye, it is important to seek care quickly! Shingles can also cause scarring, skin infections or hearing loss.
It is uncommon for children and young adults who get shingles to be particularly hard hit or have complications. But the older you are, the more difficult the disease is to become and already after the age of 50 you see a clearly increased risk of complications. In Sweden, there is a new vaccine against shingles. Read more here.