published Thursday, April 5th, 2012

ASK A DOCTOR

Dr. Mark Anderson

Q: Once and for all, if I've had the chicken pox, can I get shingles?

A: Yes, you can get shingles. In fact, you cannot get shingles unless you have had chicken pox. When a person gets chicken pox, the virus does not go away but goes into a dormant state. It's possible you can live a long time and never have another problem with it, but under certain circum-stances, the virus can "wake up" and cause a painful outbreak in the area of skin that corres-ponds to one of the major nerves that control skin sensation on one side of your body. This is known as herpes zoster or shingles. Circumstances that can cause this to happen include damage to the immune system, aging or just becoming severely ill from any cause. Occasionally, it happens and we do not know why. There is a vaccine to prevent shingles that works pretty well. It is recommended for anyone over age 50.

-- Dr. Mark Anderson, Infectious Disease Physicians of Chattanooga; president-elect, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a question for a medical doctor, e-mail it to Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com. See this space each week for answers.

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