Shingles or herpes zoster is a viral infection caused by the reactivation of the chicken pox virus (varicella-zoster virus) in people who have previously had chickenpox. It occurs in 1 in 4 people who have had chickenpox but occurs more frequently in people over the age of 50. Initially a blistering red rash will develop on one side of the face or the body and can last between 2 to 4 weeks.
Shingles is fatal for around 1 in 1,000 over-70s who develop it. 20% of people will continue to experience pain after the rash has cleared up; this is called Post-herpetic Neuralgia which can last weeks to years.
The main symptom is a burning pain in the area of the rash, which can be quite severe. Other symptoms include fever, headache, chills, tiredness and upset stomach. Very rarely, a shingles infection can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation or death.
How does a person develop shingles?Anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk of developing shingles later in life. However, if you have never had chickenpox, then you can catch it from someone who has shingles.
It is common for an outbreak to occur in people who have a weakened immune system, due to illness, cancer or drugs such as chemotherapy or steroids.
Apart from the shingles vaccine, there is no other proven method of preventing this condition. The vaccine is available on the NHS only for patients who are aged 79, 78 or 70.
Even if you have already had shingles, you are still at risk of developing symptoms again. The shingles vaccine helps to boost the immune system and reduce the risk of future attacks.
The shingles vaccine
Zostavax is the vaccine which helps to protect against Shingles, and is licensed for people over the age of 50. At Cosmopolitan Medical Clinic, our doctor or nurse will advise if you should consider having this vaccine.
The vaccine is given in one single dose. Current research suggests a booster may be required after 3 years.
Have a look at our pricing table for more information about our other vaccinations and travel medications.
Oral anti-viral treatment can be taken, which has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. Most commonly Aciclovir 800mg, 5 times daily is the recommended dose. If you are currently suffering with shingles, make an appointment with our doctor so your symptoms can be assessed and treatment started immediately.