What is Shingles?
Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the area of skin supplied by the nerve. It is caused by a virus called the Varicella-zoster virus (this is the same virus that causes chickenpox). Shingles is sometimes called Herpes zoster. The symptoms of Shingles starts with tingling or burning in an area of the skin and is followed by the eruption of a painful rash usually on one side of the body or face that takes 2-4 weeks to resolve.
Shingles can occur at any age, but it is most common in people over the age of 50 years. About 1 in 4 people develop Shingles during their lifetime. It is also possible to get Shingles more than once, although fortunately fewer than 10% of people who have a first attack will have another one.
Can Shingles be infectious?
The blisters of Shingles contain Chickenpox virus. While they are not highly contagious, it is possible to transmit Chickenpox to people who haven’t had it already. Until the Shingles blisters are crusted over it is advised to avoid contact with pregnant women, children who haven’t had Chickenpox and people who have severely impaired immune systems.
Long term effects of Shingles?
Shingles usually resolves within 4 weeks, however some people go onto develop chronic nerve pain called Post Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN). This is an ongoing severe nerve pain in the area affected by the rash and is the most common complication of Shingles, which in some people can go on for months or years. The older you get shingles the more likely you are to get PHN. PHN can affect quality of life and for some people even a slight breeze against the skin can be painful and distressing. In up to 1 in 5 cases the eyes is affected by Shingles known as Ophthalmic Shingles. This can lead to permanent visual problems.
Can Shingles be prevented?
The good news is that there is now a Shingles vaccine available to people aged 50 and over (Zostavax). Zostavax has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of older people developing Shingles, and even if you do develop Shingles then the disease is likely to affect you less severely. A national immunisation programme is available for those aged 70 – 79, but is being introduced in phases.
Can I be vaccinated privately?
At Armada Travel Clinic we can offer Zostavax for those aged 50 or over. The vaccine is a single dose injection at a cost of £149. Please contact Armada Travel Clinic for further information or to book an appointment.