Chickenpox, shingles, and postherpetic neuralgia all result from infection with a single virus called varicella zoster virus. Most people catch the varicella zoster virus as children.
After a bout of chickenpox, our immune systems never completely eradicate the VZV virus. They just chase it into hiding. Varicella retreats into nerve cells deep under the skin, near the spine.
For most of us, VZV lies dormant inside our bodies, never causing further problems. In about one-third of people, however, VZV emerges from hiding, travels along a nerve to the skin, and erupts in a bumpy, painful rash on one side of the body. This sneak attack is called herpes zoster, or shingles.
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