Shingles' or 'Herpes Zoster' are painful skin rashes that appear usually on the side of the chest wall as a band. It is caused by reactivation of the dormant chicken pox virus- varicella zoster.
The word 'shingles' comes from the Latin word 'cingulum' meaning 'girdle'. This is due to a classical band of blisters encircling the side of the torso resembling a 'girdle'. Shingles can also affect other parts of the body such as the neck, face and scalp. The term 'herpes' comes from the Greek word meaning, 'to creep.'
Shingles is a secondary infection; a second outbreak of the 'chicken pox virus'. This means that shingles particularly affects those who have previously suffered an attack of chicken pox.
The condition is excruciatingly painful as it involves the nerves. It is difficult to diagnose in the early stage when pain is the only symptom.Once the one-sided rash and blisters appear, it is more readily identified as these rashes follow the distribution of a nerve branch.