Shingles can be a painful and distressing condition, particularly for older adults. We wanted to tell you more about it, and answer questions on preventing it with vaccination.
What is shingles?
Shingles (also known as Herpes Zoster) is a disease that affects a nerve and the area of skin supplied by that nerve.
To develop shingles a patient must first have had chickenpox. Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus. Shingles occurs when the varicella-zoster virus, which lies dormant in nerve cells after an initial chickenpox infection, reactivates later in life. This reactivation often occurs after a period of emotional or physical stress.
What are the symptoms of shingles?
The symptoms of shingles are a painful blistering rash that typically appears on one side of the body or face, often accompanied by severe nerve pain.
The pain may continue even after the rash and skin blisters have healed; this is a condition known as post herpetic neuralgia.
Who can be affected?
Shingles can occur at any age, but it is most common in people over the age of 50 years. You have to have had the chickenpox virus at some stage to be susceptible to shingles. Shingles often but not always attacks us when we are run down with stress or another illness.
Is there a vaccine to protect me from shingles?
Yes. The Shingrix vaccination reduces the risk of you developing shingles by between 91 and 97 percent. If you do develop shingles having had the vaccination it will be much less severe than had you not had the jab, and the vaccination drastically reduces the chance of you developing post herpetic neuralgia.
There are two vaccinations available. Shingrix and Zostavax. Shingrix is more effective than Zostavax, and so is the vaccination we generally recommend at the Sloane Street Surgery. Shingrix is given as two doses separated by at least 2 months.
Is there anything to consider before having the shingles vaccination?
- Be mindful that you can develop a short lived (24-48) hour flu like illness the day after the jab. The doctors at the practice generally advise making sure you don’t have too much planned the day after the jab in case this happens.
- Let us know if you have been told you have a weakened immune system. This may be a result of an illness or taking other medicines.
- Let us know if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
- Let us know if you could be pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.
Can the shingles vaccine cause side effects?
Your doctor will run through the side effects with you before the vaccination, but here is some useful information on the common side effects:
Can I book in for the Shingrix vaccination?
Yes, please book a vaccination appointment. We recommend this vaccination for anyone over 50 years of age. There are 2 doses separated by at least two months, but once you’ve had these, you won’t need any more in the future.
The cost of each jab is £290.