ZocdocAnswersHow did I get shingles?

Question

How did I get shingles?

I recently got shingles and I don't know where I could have caught it. Can you get shingles at any time or does it come from something? Is it a virus? Only thing I can think of is I slept on the floor of a hotel room when i went out of town with some friends.

Answer

Sorry to hear that you developed shingles recently. If you haven't already been to a physician to be examined, I would suggest making an appointment. You could start out with your primary care physician. There are many different disease processes that can manifest themselves with a rash, so I just want to make sure that you are accurately diagnosed. "Shingles", or herpes zoster, is a viral infection that is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). This is the same virus that causes "chicken pox", classically affecting people in their childhood years. The hosts immune system (in this case you) fights the virus in childhood when you had chicken pox, but it never actually completely gets rids of it. Rather it "knocks" the viral load down to levels that don't cause any symptoms. Classically the virus invades nerve roots and lies dormant (i.e. not rapidly duplicating or causing symptoms), and for some reason later (sometimes many years later) it actives and causes an infection within that nerve. Sensory nerves innervate a particular area on the skin called a dermatome. When active, "shingles" causes a painful rash with blisters in the location of the dermatome on the nerve it involves. If treated early enough, particular anti-virals can sometimes decrease the severity or pain of the infection. So if you truly do have shingles, I doubt that it has anything to do with you sleeping on a hotel room floor. I hope that this information is helpful.

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