Shingles is an infection in a nerve caused by the chickenpox virus. Usually it is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus lying dormant in the root of the nerve in the brain or spinal cord. The dormant virus can be stirred into activity by stress or by the loss of natural immunity as we get older. Common sites for shingles include the right or left side of the chest or abdomen and the face, but any part of the body can be involved.
The main symptoms are pain and a skin rash with blisters. The pain is usually burning in nature, precedes the rash and lasts a few weeks. The rash disappears after approximately 7 days, but will leave scars or discoloured skin. It is mildly contagious; you might acquire chickenpox after contact
with the fluid blisters, but you can’t catch shingles from someone else who has it. There is no cure for this viral infection but antiviral medication can be prescribed during the first 3 days from the onset of the rash.
Prevention: Shingles vaccine Zostavax is available and will be free for 70-79-year-olds from November 2016