Once you've had chicken pox, you can never get it again. What you can come down with later, however, is shingles. After chicken pox, the varicella zoster virus remains latent in nerve cells. Down the road, it can reactivate in the form of herpes zoster virus, or shingles.
Not everyone who had chicken pox will get shingles, but those who do have usually experienced a risk factor of stress, certain illnesses and medications, or advanced age. It's believed that about half of the unvaccinated people who live to be 85 years old will experience shingles.
The symptoms of shingles are different from chicken pox, and tend to be more excruciating and prolonged. They include:
- Intense pain
- Tingling sensations
The pain caused by shingles can linger for years after the rash and other symptoms have subsided. When this happens, it's known as post herpetic neuralgia. Fortunately, there are medications designed to treat shingles, as well as a vaccine for people over age 60.
On the next page we have lots more information about chicken pox, shingles and other infectious diseases.