Shingles Information



What is Shingles?

Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it.  It usually starts with tingling or burning in an area of skin, and is followed by the eruption of a painful rash, usually on one side of the body or face, that takes 2 to 4 weeks to resolve.  Sometimes the eye can also be affected.


Why do people develop Shingles?

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus.  After people have chickenpox the virus lies inactive in the nervous system.  Later in life the virus can reactivate.  Reaching an older age or having conditions that affect the immune system make the virus much more likely to reactivate.


You can only get shingles if you have had chickenpox - True

However many people had chickenpox as a child and are unaware of it.  The infection can sometimes be so mild that it is nothing but a few spots.  Even such a mild infection leaves you at risk of shingles later in life.


I have already had shingles; do I still need the vaccine?

Unfortunately, some people do get shingles more than once, although the risk is low.  Vaccination is recommended.


What are the long-term effects of shingles?

Shingles usually resolves within 4 weeks.  However some people go on to develop chronic nerve pain called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN).  This is an ongoing, severe nerve pain in the area affected by the rash, and is the most common complication of shingles which in some people can go on for months or years.  The older you get shingles, the more likely you are to develop PHN.


How would the vaccine benefit me?

The vaccine reduces the chances of you developing shingles, and even if you do develop shingles then the disease is likely to affect you less severely.


For more information about shingles, treatment of shingles and shingles vaccination:

Please ask on reception.

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