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.
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.
How common is shingles?
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. Several 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.
Can shingles be prevented?
In recent years, 2 different vaccines to prevent shingles have been licensed in Europe and are available in Ireland. These vaccines are not part of the routine immunisation schedule.
Vaccination against singles is not 100% effective.
However, it does reduce your risk of developing this condition and can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms if you do develop it.
People who are vaccinated are less likely to develop side effects from shingles such as post herpetic neuralgia.
What are the vaccines available in Ireland?
The two shingles vaccines currently available are:
- Shingrix – this is a recombinant vaccine that is given as two doses, 2 months apart. It is indicated for people >50 years, or over 18 years with underlying medical issues putting them at increased risk of shingles.
- Efficacy – 97.2% > 50 years old, 91.3% > 70 years old
- Zostavax – This is a live vaccine. It is given as a single dose. It is indicated for people over 50 years old.
- Efficacy – 70% > 50 years old, 41% > 70 years old
We can now offer either of these vaccines here at GBMC. We do not routinely carry the vaccines in our fridge so the vaccine would need to be ordered in advance and takes approximately 2 days to be delivered
Please see our Fees page for costs and enquire at reception if you would like this vaccine.
We require a deposit of 50% in advance for each vaccine that we order.