What is Shingles?
Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is a condition that is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus. Once you’ve had chickenpox the virus stays dormant in your nervous system and later in life can reactivate and cause shingles. It is not fully known what causes the virus to reactivate, but this often occurs many years after the original chickenpox infection. Shingles tends to occur more often in older people and usually causes a painful rash on one side of the body. The immune system weakens with age and so the chance of developing shingles increases as we get older.
What are the symptoms of Shingles?
The symptoms of shingles can range from mild to severe and can be unpleasant.
Shingles usually attacks one side of the body, often the trunk, head, neck or eye. Shingles usually starts with a headache, tiredness and you are likely to feel unwell. It is very common to feel a tingling or burning pain in the area before a rash appears. In a small proportion of people this may be quite severe. Within a few days to three weeks this area of pain will start to develop a rash which then turns into painful fluid-filled blisters. A few days after appearing the blisters dry out and scabs form. It usually takes two to four weeks for the rash to heal completely. Most people recover but some may experience long-term effects.
What treatment is available for Shingles?
There are treatments available that can help ease your symptoms. Shingles varies from person to person and some people will require treatment. See your GP as soon as possible, ideally within 72hrs of the rash occurring, as early treatment may help reduce the severity of your symptoms and the risk of developing complications.