What causes Kayap?


Shingles or Herpes Zoster (commonly known as kayap in Malaysia) is a disease of nerves and skin caused by Varicella Zoster virus. It is characterised by a painful skin rash which turns into fluid-filled blisters and eventually dries out. In this article, we will look into detail on what causes Kayap.

What causes Kayap?

Kayap or shingles is the reactivation of Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus causing chickenpox. It occurs only in people with a previous infection with the virus. When one is first infected with varicella zoster virus, it will manifest as chickenpox. As one recovers from chickenpox, the immune system has managed to eliminate the virus from most parts of the body except the ganglion (a structure containing nerve tissue near your spinal cord). In most people, the virus will remain inactive for the rest of their life as the immune system is capable of suppressing the virus. However, in the condition where the immune system is compromised, the virus might lead to an active infection.

Below are the risk factors for shingles:

  • Stress
  • Aging
  • Undergoing treatment which can suppress your immune system such as chemotherapy and long-term steroids.
  • Medical conditions which weaken your immune system such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and cancer

Upon reactivation, the virus follows the path of the ganglion creating inflammation on the skin supplied, forming a tingling or painful rash. The rashes follow the nerve distribution pattern and usually affect only one side of the body. Chest and abdomen areas are commonly affected but it can affect any part of the body. Over the next few days, the rashes appeared as itchy blisters filled with clear or yellowish fluid. After 7-10 days, the blisters dry out and form scabs. It might take up to 4 weeks for your rash to heal completely. Other associated symptoms will be fever, headache and generally unwell. Patients might experience burning pain, tingling or numbness in the affected area even before rashes appear.

One will not contract shingles from someone with shingles. However, those who get infected might develop chickenpox if they have not had chickenpox and vaccination in the past.

Complications of Kayap

It is important to keep the affected area dry and clean during infection. A bacterial infection might develop on top of it.

Post-herpetic neuralgia (long-term nerve pain) might develop as a complication of Kayap, even after the rash goes away. It can last for months or years and might be severe to the point it interferes with quality of life.

Shingles which affect regions near the eyes might lead to eye damage, causing scarring of the cornea, redness of the eyes, pressure build up in the eyes and blindness.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is a complication in which shingles affect around your ears. It can cause earaches, hearing loss, balancing problems and ringing in the ear.

Encephalitis (brain inflammation) and pneumonia (lung infection) are also being reported.


Shingles, commonly known as Kayap, is a disease caused by reactivation of Varicella Zoster virus, occurring only in those who were infected with the virus. Stress, aging and a weakened immune system are the causes for the reactivation of the virus. The disease causes a painful rash following the distribution of nerves. Early treatment is required to reduce the symptoms and complications from the disease.