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HealthInfo Canterbury


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.

Avoiding shingles

The Zostavax vaccine is used to protect adults against shingles.

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

Until 31 December 2021, you can also get a free vaccination at your general practice if you were between 66 and 80 on 1 April 2018 and you're currently under 81.

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.

Treating 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.

Getting help for 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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