Common skin conditions


The varicella zoster virus, also called herpes zoster, is simply a reactivation of the chickenpox virus. Anyone who has already had chickenpox has the virus hiding in their system. It can remain dormant and never reactivate. However, for 30% of adults, this is not the case and they will experience shingles, usually after 60. Once active, the virus causes sores in the area where the virus went dormant.


Shingles begins as a tingling or a painful rash on one side of the body, most often along a nerve. The affected area then becomes very sensitive and covered with small red blisters filled with liquid that contains the chickenpox virus. Once they burst, the blisters dry and disappear after two to three weeks.

Since shingles attacks nerves, it is not uncommon to feel intense pain and itching. In certain cases, these feelings can last months, even years; this is called postherpetic neuralgia.


The exact cause of this condition remains unknown. Factors that weakened the immune system, such as fatigue, stress, cancer, aging or certain medications can trigger the reactivation of the virus.

It is also important to know that everyone who has had chickenpox is a shingles virus carrier.


It is important to consult a doctor quickly to obtain a prescription for antiviral medication. Taken in the first three days following the appearance of the initial sores, the treatment accelerates healing, relieves pain and avoids the risk of postherpetic neuralgia.

Other treatments can also be combined to soothe the pain and discomfort:

  • Taking analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Ask your pharmacist for advice;
  • Applying cold compresses to the sores
  • Wearing light clothing to avoid any friction.

For some years now, a shingles vaccine has been available for people over 50. Even though how long it remains effective is unknown, it has few side effects and can significantly reduce the duration of the disease and associated pain. Don’t hesitate to contact your pharmacist to learn more.

This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice and Accès pharma affiliated pharmacist-owners cannot be held responsible for this information. The information was true and accurate at the time of publication, but it is subject to change.

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