One day you might wake up with a painful blistering rash on one side of your body that looks like chicken pox. The odds are high that you have shingles, a skin condition caused by the herpes zoster virus. Shingles is a common condition—50% of all Americans will have had a breakout by the time they are 80. Your risk of shingles also increases as you get older—1 out of 3 people 60 years or older will get shingles.
Shingles only affects people who have had chicken pox; it occurs because of a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, herpes zoster (note: this is not the same herpes virus that causes genital or oral herpes). After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. If the virus reactivates in the body years later, it can manifest as shingles.
In addition to increasing with age, incidence of shingles is more common in people with compromised immune systems from medical conditions or immunosuppressive drugs. However, shingles can also appear in children and healthy adults.