Shingles is a condition that is caused by a viral infection of the sensory neurons and is characterized by the emergence of a very painful skin rash. For most healthy adults, an outbreak of shingles generally lasts for a few weeks before resolving. The individual is typically not expected to suffer from any future attacks. Some individuals, however, will suffer from an outbreak of shingles characterized by more severe symptoms that does not resolve for several months. There is some evidence that older individuals, particularly those who are over the age of fifty, are at particular risk given that their immune systems may be more frequently compromised.
Shingles infections during adulthood can result in other complications, such as decreased mobility, bacterial infections, ocular problems, post-herpetic neuralgia, and meningitis. There is no cure for the viral infection underlying shingles. The chickenpox vaccine, however, has shown some promise for preventing the development of this condition. The goal of treatment is to reduce the severity of symptoms and decrease the longevity of the infection. In most cases, shingles outbreaks can last several weeks. Individuals are encouraged to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent the infection from worsening.