Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the chickenpox virus (varicella).


Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the chickenpox virus (varicella). It is a painful inflammation of a nerve that causes blisters to erupt on the skin. The disease is treated with anti-viral medication and painkillers.


Main symptoms

  • Initially twinges, burning or shooting pain (nerve pain) without any change to the skin
  • This is followed by a skin rash with blisters in a striped or belt-like pattern
    • It often appears on one side of the waist In the face, e.g. side of the nose or the chin
    • Sensory disturbances (e.g. tingling, even a light touch causes pain)

Symptoms usually disappear after seven to ten days without complications. The disease can be more severe in older people or people with a weakened immune system.

Other symptoms


  • Nerve pain remains even after the rash has healed
  • Permanent damage to eye or inner ear
  • Inflammation of the meninges or the brain and spinal cord

Causes and treatment


  • Varicella zoster virus (VZV)

Only people who have previously had chickenpox or been vaccinated against chickenpox can get shingles. These viruses remain in the body for life and can be reactivated and cause shingles when the immune system is weakened.

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Blister swab (search for viruses)
  • Blood test (search for viruses)

Possible therapies

  • Painkillers
  • Anti-viral medication

What can I do myself?

  • Don’t go to public swimming pools, saunas etc. while you have shingles
    • Blister fluid is very contagious!

When to see a doctor?

  • Belt-like rash with blisters (also in the face and on the ears)
  • Severe and burning band of pain

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.