Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the area of skin around it. It is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.
Most people have chickenpox in childhood, but after the illness has gone, the virus remains dormant in the nervous system. The immune system keeps the virus under control, but later in life it can be reactivated and cause shingles.
It is uncertain exactly why the shingles virus is reactivated at a later stage in life like this. It may be due to having lowered immunity as a result of aging, stress or of an immuno-compromising condition.
Shingles usually affects a specific area on either the left or right side of the body. The main symptoms are pain and a rash, which develops into itchy blisters and then scabs over.
It is estimated that about 3 people in every 1,000 have shingles in the UK every year. The figure for Ireland is likely to be similar.
Shingles can occur at any age, but is most common in people who are over 50 years of age.Among people who are over 80 years of age, about 11 people in every 1,000 have shingles each year.
It is much less common in children.
In most cases, the painful rash of shingles lasts 7 to 10 days and takes 2 to 4 weeks to fully heal. A number of different medicines can be used to treat the pain.
Complications can occur after you have had shingles, such as postherpetic neuralgia. This is where severe nerve pain lasts for more than three months after the rash has gone.
It is estimated that postherpetic neuralgia affects at least 1 in 10 people with shingles and is more common in older people. It affects around one-third of people who are over 80 and who have shingles.
In recent years a vaccine to prevent shingles in the elderly has been licensed in Europe and is available in Ireland. This vaccine is not part of the routine immunisation schedule.
We can now offer this vaccine here at GBMC but we do not routinely carry the vaccine in our fridge so it would need to be ordered in advance and takes approximately 2 days to be delivered. See our Fees page for costs
Please enquire at reception. Details on our contact page here...
The HSE have very comprehensive information on their website here should you require more information about any aspect of Shingles treatment or vaccination.
Wishing all our patients, colleagues and friends a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Anam Cara Galway, an organisation that supports bereaved parents, will hold its next monthly Parent Evening on Wednesday 2nd of May from 19:30 to 21:00 in the Clayton Hotel, Old Monivea Road, Ballybrit, Galway.