What Causes Shingles to Spread

People that suffer from shingles often wonder what causes ugly dermatomal distribution in Shingles. Shingles or herpes zoster, the same virus that causes Chickenpox, can lie dormant in your body for years until it awakens and causes ugly, excruciatingly painful rashes and blisters on your skin. This rash is what’s meant by dermatomal distribution. Shingles seem to afflict people with weaker immune systems like children and the elderly. But what is it that causes the ugly dermatomal distribution of shingles?

The first step is figuring out whether or not you have shingles. If you’re still wondering, you might review this article about understanding if you have shingles.

Dermatomal Distribution Skin Deep

To better understand what causes dermatomal distribution, you need to get an understanding of how the Shingles disease works. The online dictionary defines derma or dermis as, “the thick layer of living tissue below the epidermis that forms the true skin, containing blood capillaries, nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, and other structures.” Based on that definition, “dermatomal distribution” would simply mean spread over the skin.

Terry Bradshaw | Dermatomal Distribution

Any Shingles patient can tell you about the unsightly rash and blisters that spread across their skin causing debilitating pain. Retired National Football League (NFL) Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback, Terry Bradshaw shares his experience with Shingles in a television commercial. The three-time Super Bowl winner talks about how painfully miserable Shingles makes you. In the commercial, he explains how his episode with Shingles was some of the worst pain of his life. But the rash that he talked about was just what was happening on the surface. The cause of these rashes goes deeper.

Dermatomal Distribution And Herpes

The root of the Shingles virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. It could be years later when the virus awakens and travels along a nerve and explode into a painful, bumpy, rash. Varicella Zoster virus belongs to the family of herpes viruses, but does not cause cold sores or genital herpes). The rashes or blisters appear anywhere from one to 14 days after the virus awakens. While it can appear anywhere on a person’s body, it normally appears as a single rash on either side of a patients face or torso.


The pain and itching of dermatomal distribution from Shingles is traumatic for most patients. Unfortunately, the nasty rashes and blisters of Shingles isn’t necessarily the end of the disease. The pain and itching of shingles can stay with you for some time after the blisters disappear. But the sneak attack of the Shingles from its hiding place near the spinal cord or brain is what causes ugly dermatomal distribution in shingles.