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HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Shingles is a rash of the skin caused by the same virus which causes the chickenpox disease. The virus is known as Varicella zoster-a herpes virus. When a child has the chicken pox, the virus does not go away completely but harbours dormant in the nerves of the spinal cord. When the immune system is not at its best or when a person has emotional stress, AIDS or cancer, the virus reactivates and causes the shingles rash. In many cases, there is no known cause for a shingles outbreak. It is common in older people (older than 60) but can occur at any age. There are a million cases of shingles each year in the US. While chicken pox and shingles are caused by a herpes virus, it is not the same as the herpes you get as a sexually transmitted disease. Those conditions are caused by Herpes simplex.

Signs and symptoms of shingles include a period of pain in a body area that is unassociated with a rash for up to a week before the rash shows up. The pain is burning and the skin is sensitive. The rash looks like several small blisters on a red base and new blisters can show up over three to five days after the onset of the first set of blisters. The blisters often hurt but rarely itch. The blisters only show up at a specific dermatome-an area supplied by a single spinal nerve. This is why it shows up only on one side of the body and in a specific area of the body. It can appear as a band along the trunk or down an arm or leg. The blisters pop and ooze so that they can then crust over and heal. Sometimes the pain occurs but the blisters never form.

Shingles is contagious to any person who has not had chickenpox before. The person who gets the shingles virus will come down with chicken pox instead of shingles. Once they are infected, they can get shingles later in life. The shingles virus is most contagious when the shingles lesions are in exposed areas, such as the arms or legs, in warm weather. Shingles of the face is also contagious to those who have not had chickenpox.

When shingles is over with, you can get post-herpetic neuralgia or pain in the area where the shingles virus occurs. This involves a burning or sticking pain in the area where you had the virus' rash. It usually occurs in those people who are over fifty and occurs in 10-15 percent of people who have shingles. If you treat shingles as soon as it is diagnosed, this seems to cut down on the incidence of post-herpetic neuralgia. Medications used to treat post-herpetic neuralgia include Elavil or amitriptyline, a type of antidepressant and certain antiseizure medications, such as carbamazepine, Neurontin and Lyrica. Capsaicin cream or Zostrix is a cream that anaesthetises the nerves associated with post-herpetic neuralgia. It is a derivative of chili peppers. Lidocaine pain patches are used to numb the pain of post-herpetic neuralgia and can be used until the pain resolves itself.

Shingles can be prevented with a vaccine. It was first approved in 2006 and is designed for adult shingles patients. It is used in those who are 60 years or older and who have had chicken pox before. It is a booster to the chicken pox vaccine that children get to prevent them from getting chicken pox in the first place. Those who get the vaccine significantly reduce their chances of getting shingles later in life. It is about 60 percent effective in preventing shingles and preventing post-herpetic neuralgia. Those who have immunodeficiency conditions like HIV or cancer should not receive the shingles vaccine because the vaccine is a live, attenuated (weakened) vaccine that can give shingles or chicken pox to those who have a poor immune system.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Shingles solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Shingles solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here