Shingles on the Rise: Why You Should Be Concerned

Shingles on the Rise: Why You Should Be Concerned

In recent years, there has been a concerning increase in the number of cases of shingles. This painful and often debilitating condition is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. As the virus lies dormant in the body after a person has had chickenpox, it can reactivate later in life, leading to the development of shingles.

Understanding Shingles

Shingles typically presents as a painful rash that develops on one side of the body, often in a band-like pattern. Other symptoms may include fever, headache, and fatigue. The rash can be extremely uncomfortable and may last for several weeks.

While anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles, the risk increases with age and for those with weakened immune systems. Stress, illness, and certain medications can also trigger an outbreak of shingles.

Why the Increase?

There are several factors that may be contributing to the rise in shingles cases. One possible reason is the aging population, as the risk of shingles increases with age. Additionally, improvements in medical care have led to more people surviving conditions that weaken the immune system, making them more susceptible to shingles.

Another factor could be the decline in natural exposure to the varicella-zoster virus. With fewer children contracting chickenpox due to vaccination programs, there may be fewer opportunities for adults to be naturally exposed to the virus and boost their immunity.

Prevention and Treatment

Fortunately, there is a vaccine available that can help prevent shingles. The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults over the age of 50, even if they have had shingles before. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider about the vaccine and determine if it is appropriate for you.

If you do develop shingles, early treatment with antiviral medications can help reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms. Pain management techniques, such as over-the-counter pain relievers and topical treatments, can also help alleviate discomfort.


What are the early signs of shingles?

Early signs of shingles may include pain, tingling, or itching in a specific area of the body. A rash may also develop, typically a few days after the initial symptoms.

Can shingles be spread to others?

Shingles cannot be spread from person to person. However, the varicella-zoster virus can be passed on to those who have not had chickenpox, leading to chickenpox infection instead of shingles.

Is there a cure for shingles?

There is no cure for shingles, but early treatment can help reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent complications. Pain management strategies can also help improve quality of life during an outbreak.

How long does shingles rash last?

The shingles rash typically lasts for 2 to 4 weeks. It may take several weeks for the rash to completely heal and for pain to subside.

Can you get shingles more than once?

It is possible to have more than one episode of shingles in a lifetime, although it is less common. Getting the shingles vaccine can help reduce the risk of recurrent outbreaks.

For more information on shingles and why you should be concerned, visit CDC’s Shingles Information.