Herpes zoster (shingles) normally occurs in a limited area that follows a dermatome (see the "dermatome" picture). In individuals with damaged immune systems, herpes zoster may be widespread (disseminated), causing serious illness. Herpes zoster is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Review Date 4/9/2022
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 10/04/2022.