Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.
Shingles usually affects a specific area on one side of the body and does not cross over the midline of the body (an imaginary line running from between your eyes down past the belly button).
The main symptom is a painful rash that develops into itchy blisters that contain particles of the virus.
An episode of shingles typically lasts around two to four weeks, although around one in five people go on to develop nerve pain in the affected area of skin.
When to seek medical advice
Shingles is not usually serious, but you should see your GP as soon as possible if you recognise the symptoms. Early treatment may help reduce the severity of your symptoms and the risk of developing complications.
What causes shingles?
Most people have chickenpox in childhood, but after the illness has gone, the virus remains dormant (inactive) in the nervous system. The immune system keeps the virus in check, but later in life it can be reactivated and cause shingles.
It is not known exactly why the shingles virus is reactivated at a later stage in life, but most cases are thought to be caused by having lowered immunity (protection against infections and diseases).
This may be the result of:
- being older
- being stressed
- taking medication that weakens your immune system
- a condition that affects your immune system, such as HIV or AIDS
It is not possible to catch shingles from someone with the condition or from someone with chickenpox, but you can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had it before.
It is possible to have shingles more than once, but it's very rare to get it more than twice.
Who is affected?
Around 9 in every 10 adults in the UK have had chickenpox previously and are potentially at risk of developing shingles.
Shingles can occur at any age, but is most common in people who are over the age of 70. It is much less common in children.
It's estimated that around one in every four people will have at least one episode of shingles during their life.
Can shingles be prevented?
It's not always possible to prevent shingles, but a vaccine called Zostavax can reduce your chances of developing the condition.
If you still develop shingles after having this vaccine, the condition may be milder and last for a shorter time than usual.
Zostavax is only licenced for people over the age of 50.
For more information on this vaccine please visit:
We provide vaccinations by appointment at our clinics in Farnborough in Hampshire and Woking in Surrey. If inconvenient, please contact us to take advantage of our Mobile Clinic service.
Single dose course
Price per dose: £150.00
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