This text provides information in simple language on the topic: Shingles.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a rash on the skin. This rash often stretches across half of the body like a belt. That's why the rash is called: shingles.


Shingles is caused by a virus. The virus is called: varicella zoster virus. The varicella zoster virus is one of the herpes viruses. Shingles is contagious: the viruses can be transmitted, among other things, through contact with crusts or the contents of the vesicles in the rash.

Caution: Shingles can be particularly dangerous in certain parts of the body:

  • on the head
  • On neck
  • in the face

How can you recognize shingles?

The first signs of shingles can be:

  • Slackness
  • Light fever
  • Pain
  • itching

Later on, the rash appears on the skin. The rash can appear anywhere on the body. Typical features are:

  • a belt-like shape
  • Redness
  • small bubbles with liquid

What are the causes of shingles?

The cause of shingles is the varicella zoster virus. This virus can cause two different diseases:

  1. chickenpox
  2. Shingles

The varicella zoster virus always triggers chickenpox first.

Chickenpox is a typical childhood disease. A person didn't have chickenpox as a child? Then that person can still get chickenpox as an adult.

In chickenpox, a rash with blisters forms all over the body. The rash will go away after a while. But the viruses stay in the body for a lifetime. Most of the time, the viruses are dormant. But the viruses can break out again even after many years. Then the shingles develops.

Has a person already had chickenpox? Only then can this person get shingles.

Warning: a person has never had chickenpox? Then shingles is still contagious for this person.

Shingles usually breaks out when the body's defenses are weak. There are many possible reasons for this. Typical reasons are, for example:

  • illness
  • high age
  • stress
  • certain drugs

What can you do about shingles?

If you have shingles, you should see a doctor right away. The doctor can then treat the shingles.

Warning: you are not undergoing treatment for shingles? Then this can have dire consequences: Shingles can in part lead to nerve pain or other permanent problems. You should therefore see a doctor immediately at the first signs of shingles.

The doctor treats shingles with different drugs. The drugs fight:

  • the viruses
  • the rash
  • the pain

There is also a vaccination against shingles.

Some people are particularly at risk of developing shingles. These people can get the shingles vaccine. These include, for example:

  • People over 60 years
  • People aged 50 and over with a permanent immune system weakness.

Would you like to be vaccinated against shingles? Then ask a doctor. The doctor will give you all the important information about this vaccination.

Where can you get more information?

You think: maybe I have shingles? Then go to the doctor. The doctor will examine you and give you all the important information.

Would you like to read more about shingles? You can find more information about shingles here. Attention: This link leads out of our simple language offer. The information is then no longer in plain language.

Attention: This text only contains general information. The text does not replace a visit to the doctor. Only a doctor can give you accurate information. Are you feeling sick? Or do you have questions about an illness? Then you should always see a doctor.

We wrote the texts together with the Light Language Research Center. The light language research center is at the University of Hildesheim.