Alberta Health Services
Shingles is a painful, blistering rash caused by the same virus as chickenpox (varicella zoster). Most people develop shingles in one part of the body. The blisters can last for several weeks.
The nerve pain from shingles can be severe and last for months. The pain can prevent you from doing daily activities such as walking, sleeping, or visiting with friends and family.
People with shingles may develop other problems, such as scarring in the area of the rash, skin infections, weakness, loss of hearing or vision, or paralysis (being unable to move part of your body).
Some people with shingles may need to be in the hospital if they are very unwell. In very rare cases, shingles can cause death.
Learn more about shingles.
You are at risk for shingles if you had chickenpox in the past.
Your risk for shingles is higher if you have a weak immune system or if you are 50 years of age or older. Your risk of shingles gets higher the older you get. You can develop shingles if you got the chickenpox vaccine, but the risk is very low.
About 1 in 3 Canadians will develop shingles.
If you had chickenpox disease in the past, you can develop shingles. The virus stays in the nerve cells in your body. It can stay there for many years and not cause a problem. But for some people, the virus can become active again and cause shingles, especially if you have a weak immune system or are older. It can occur more than once.
If you have shingles, there are ways to feel better faster and to relieve pain and itching. Find tips to care for yourself at home.
Learn what you can do at home to care for your child if they have shingles.
For help managing symptoms of shingles or to talk to a registered nurse call Health Link at 811.
Shingles can be treated with medicines. These medicines include antiviral medicines and medicines for pain. Treatment may shorten the illness and prevent complications.
See your healthcare provider right away if you think you may have shingles.
Learn more about how shingles can be diagnosed and treated.
The Shingrix vaccine helps prevents you from developing shingles. This vaccine doesn’t prevent chickenpox and it’s not a treatment for shingles or shingles nerve pain.
Zostavax is another type of vaccine that protects against shingles. It provides less protection against shingles than the Shingrix vaccine.
You can get the Shingrix vaccine if you had the Zostavax vaccine, but you need to wait at least 1 year.
For some people, this vaccine is free. Others may be able to get it, but they would need to buy it from a pharmacist, doctor, or private immunization clinic.
Learn more about who can get the Shingrix vaccine or talk to your healthcare provider to decide if the shingles vaccine is right for you. You can also try this tool: Should I get a vaccine to prevent shingles?
If you have shingles, avoid close contact with people until after the rash blisters heal. It's important to avoid contact with people who are at special risk from chickenpox, such as babies and anyone who is pregnant, has never had chickenpox, is currently ill, or has a weak immune system.
You or your child may get varicella zoster immune globulin if you have contact with the virus that causes shingles, you’re not protected against the virus, and you’re at risk of getting very sick.
Immune globulins give quick, short-term protection. For long-term protection, you need a vaccine.
Learn more about varicella zoster immune globulin.