The same virus that cause chickenpox also cause shingles. This is so, because after recovery from chickenpox the virus remains dormant in the patient’s CNS (Central Nervous System). Shingles is caused by Varicella-zoster virus, which belongs to group of viruses known as herpes viruses, which is the exact reason as to why shingles is also known as herpes zoster. All herpes viruses can remain hidden in the nervous system of our body and can hide there for an indefinite span of time. When this virus finds the right conditions, the herpes zoster virus can ‘reactivate’ themselves. It’s more like waking up from a hibernation mode. After awaking the virus travels down the nerve fibers, which causes new infections. The infection appears as blisters in the skin or skin rashes accompanied by shingles which appear in more than one distinct bands, known as dermatomes. It can appear even on the face in a band or in some situations break out on a quarter of the face.
All these dermatomes correspond to one singular nerve, which is why this infection causes isolated skin lesions, rather than rashes appearing all over the body.
Per say, you can never have shingles if you have never been exposed to chicken pox or rather to say more clinically the varicella virus that causes this disease. As said even before, this virus can remain dormant for years and while remaining inactive it will never cause any problem to the host. However, in certain persons who have low immunity, it may reactivate several times in a short span of time. This disease is most common in people who are aged over 50. More than half of the cases registered for this illness have been found aged near or more than 60. Nevertheless, this disease can happen to all people of all ages but only to them, who had been exposed to chicken pox.
It is still unknown by stalwarts of the medical science, as to why varicella zoster virus starts to multiply. Nevertheless, in spite of this virus’s unpredictable nature, the possible causes of varicella zoster reappearance on the host can be for ageing, diseases like HIV and AIDS, cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, psychological and emotional stress, trauma and medications such as immunosuppressant drugs. It has also been seen that children whose mothers had chicken pox in their late pregnancy or in her infancy does at times transmit this virus to the offspring congenitally.
Most people do not experience any life-threatening complications with shingles.