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Shingles is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It affects specific nerve fibres and causes a painful, blistering skin rash in the area of the affected nerves. Prompt treatment with antiviral medicines can reduce pain, speed healing and reduce complications. Shingles only occurs in people who have already had chickenpox. After an episode of chickenpox, some of the chickenpox virus (called the varicella-zoster virus) remains in the body and lies inactive in nerve cells. In some people the virus reactivates years later and spreads along a nerve path to the skin, where it causes the pain and rash of shingles. Shingles may develop at any age, but is more common in people over 50 years of age. Most people have shingles only once.

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