DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I was diagnosed last year, at the age of 38, with shingles. What causes someone who is relatively young to get shingles? Does this mean I am more likely to get it again? Should I get the vaccine at this point or wait until the recommended age of 60?
ANSWER: Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you have had chickenpox, varicella-zoster stays in your body for the rest of your life. When the virus is reactivated, the result is shingles.
[Watch this animation: stages of shingles]
Shingles typically involves a band-like rash on one side of the chest, abdomen or face. The rash is usually quite painful. Most people recover from shingles over several weeks. A small number have lingering severe pain, called post-herpetic neuralgia, along the nerve that was irritated when the virus came back.