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Shingles

Shingles is a condition associated with a painful, blistering rash. It is caused by the reactivation of the virus that causes Chickenpox (Varicella zoster). Generally the blistering rash occurs in one part of the body. It can result in persistent pain at the site of the blisters and scarring.

Once you have had chickenpox, the virus (Varicella zoster) stays in your body within the nerve cells. The virus can then become active once more, generally during times of body stress or infection.

It is estimated that the lifetime risk of getting shingles is 1 in 4.  Although shingles can occur at any age, it is most common over the age of 50 years.

Transmission

The virus is spread through direct contact with the fluid from the blistering rash caused by shingles.

A person with active shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. A person is not infectious before the blisters appear. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious.

Shingles is less contagious than Chickenpox and the risk of a person with shingles spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered.

You cannot contract Shingles from being in contact with someone with Chickenpox infection, but you can develop Chickenpox infection form being in contact with someone that has shingles.

Symptoms

Before the onset of the rash you may experience itching, pain or abnormal skin sensations around the site to be affected. This is followed by the rash, which starts as red spots that then develop into blisters. The blisters can take up to 4 weeks to fully heal.

There may be associated symptoms such as headache, feeling tired and fever.

Complications

Shingles can lead to:

  1. Post Herpetic Neuralgia-this is persistence of the pain at the infection site. The pain can be shooting, burning or like electric shocks and skin is very tender to touch. The pain is debilitating and there is no treatment or cure for it. It can take months or even years to resolve.
  2.  Visual disturbance or loss caused by shingles infection of the eye.
  3. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain).
  4. Superimposed bacterial infection of the skin.
  5. Loss of muscle function if the nerve affected is motor neurone. For example, facial paralysis from infection of the facial nerve.

Treatment

Anti-viral medications can be prescribed if diagnosed in the early stages to reduce the duration and severity of an attack.

Prevention

The best way to prevent shingles is to get vaccinated. There is a safe and effective vaccine, which is available privately to anyone over the age of 50 years of age, not eligible under the NHS immunisation programme.

Shingles Vaccine – Shingrix , £250 per dose

CityDoc, the UK’s leading vaccine provider are proud to offer the new Shingles vaccine, Shingrix.

This is an inactivated vaccine which is over 90% effective against the prevention of shingles infection and over 88% effective at preventing the debilitating Post Herpetic Neuralgic complication of Shingles.

This is currently the most effective vaccine available against shingles.

It is a 2 dose course with clinical evidence of protection for up to 5 years.

The two doses are given ideally 2 months apart (but the 2nd dose can be given up to 6 months after the first).

The vaccine is indicated for all individuals over the age of 50 years to prevent shingles infection. It works by boosting the body’s own natural immunity to the virus that causes the infection (Varicella Zoster).

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