Shingles or herpes zoster (to give it its Sunday name!) is a condition caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus.
You cannot catch shingles from someone with chickenpox.
Once you have had chickenpox (and 90% of adults in the UK will have had), the virus stays dormant in the body until it is reactivated, when it causes shingles. If you have definitely never had chicken pox, then you will not get shingles.
What is shingles?
Symptoms of shingles normally affect one side of the body. It usually starts with a headache, fever or tiredness. Most people feel unwell with shingles. This is commonly followed by a burning pain. A few days later a rash may develop which will turn into fluid filled blisters which will eventually crust over and heal.
Most people recover fully but some people are left with nerve pain (neuralgia) for many months or even years after. This burning or shooting pain can be extremely distressing and disabling.
Treatment in the form of antivirals are available to treat the symptoms of shingles if they are taken as soon as possible during an episode.
Care is needed if shingles affects the eye or eyelid as this has been known to affect vision and even cause permanent blindness.
Although shingles can develop at any age, it is much more likely to affect people over 50 years of age and the risk increases with increasing age.
The shinglesaware website offers some really good advice for anyone wanting more information about shingles.
The good news is that there is a vaccine available which can prevent shingles at all.
The NHS has agreed that a shingles vaccination should be offered to people aged 70 to 79 years and this is likely to start from 2014, but you can protect yourself before then if you want to.
As you know, we at Barnton Pharmacy like to jab people, so we are delighted to be able to offer the shingles vaccine as part of our comprehensive vaccination programme.
It is not cheap at £150, but if you know of people who have had or are suffering from the pain left behind after shingles, they may say it is money well spent.