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HealthInfo Canterbury

Shingles

Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus.

You can only get shingles (also known as herpes zoster) if you've previously had chickenpox.

Shingles is an infection in the nerves and the areas of skin supplied by the nerves. It's more common in adults, especially older people and people with poor immune systems.

Pain is a very common symptom of shingles. The pain can be in one spot, or over a larger area. A rash usually appears within one to three days after the pain starts, but it can take up to 10 days for the rash to appear.

With shingles, you may also have a headache and fever, and generally feel unwell.

The symptoms usually go away in two to three weeks, though for older people it can take three to four weeks. Pain can continue after the rash has gone.

How can I avoid getting shingles?

The Zostavax vaccine is used to protect adults against shingles.

From 1 April 2018, Zostavax is funded for 65-year-olds. This means you can get a free vaccination at your general practice.

For two years from 1 April 2018, you can also get a free vaccination at your general practice if you're between 66 and 80.

If you're between 50 and 65, or 81 or older, you can get the vaccination at your general practice and some pharmacies but you'll have to pay for it.

You can have a vaccination even if you've previously had shingles as it can help stop you getting shingles again.

What is the treatment for shingles?

The treatment for shingles aims to reduce the symptoms. It includes rest and paracetamol for the pain.

If you're at a higher risk of developing complications from shingles, your doctor may give you antiviral drugs such as valaciclovir and aciclovir. They may also prescribe a steroid cream.

When should I see a doctor with shingles?

If the shingles rash is close to one of your eyes, it can sometimes affect your eye. This is called ophthalmic herpes zoster. If this happens, it's important to see your doctor quickly.

You should also see a doctor if:

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created May 2018.

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