What is shingles?
Shingles can be a very painful health condition. It usually affects people over 50 years of age.
If you have had chickenpox in childhood, it is possible that the chickenpox virus has ‘stayed in your system’ lying dormant for years, but has then been reactivated in later life – causing shingles to develop (please see Symptoms section below).
About chickenpox: Chickenpox is a red rash which can appear on most areas of the body – after infection. It is uncommon for an adult or child to have chickenpox more than once.
Once infected by the chickenpox virus – the varicella-zoster virus – a nasty rash develops which may leave scabs.
As well as chickenpox, other health conditions/diseases which weaken the immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS) can cause shingles to develop.
Symptoms of shingles include:
A tingling, burning sensation to the skin – usually down one side of the body (the chest, abdomen, trunk…)
A nasty, painful red rash in the form of a band (this develops after a few days and affects the aforementioned skin areas where the burning sensation has developed).
Nerve pain in the face
Arm and leg pains
A general feeling of being unwell and having aches and pains
Swollen lymph nodes (these can feel tender as they become enlarged)
Shingles is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once your childhood episode of chickenpox has passed, the varicella-zoster virus remains in your system, ‘sitting’ in the nerve cells of your spinal chord for the rest of your life until, for some reason, your immune system becomes weakened, and shingles develops.
You are at greater risk of having shingles if you are elderly, have had cancer treatment, drink alcohol excessively, smoke, or are under extreme stress for some reason (due to problems at home, or through being under constant pressure to achieve a sales target at work, for example).
If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, arrange an appointment with your GP immediately. They will take your medical history, ask you some questions about your symptoms, and then carry out a short physical examination (inspection of your rash).
It is highly unlikely that any kind of test will need to be made. However, if attaining a confirmed diagnosis proves difficult, then the shingles virus can be diagnosed through a blood test.
Once a confirmed diagnosis is made, an appropriate treatment will then be recommended to you.
Note: If your GP is concerned about the impact shingles is having upon your eyes, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist to ensure that your vision is not permanently impaired.
Effect on your life
After having shingles you may be left with slightly pockmarked skin in the affected area. This is where the red rash spots have developed into blisters and then flaked off over time.
If you have shingles you will probably have to take time off work until your symptoms have completely cleared up.
Some people with shingles suffer long-term eye problems as a result of developing the condition.
Shingles is treated with antiviral medication.
To ease the itchiness of the shingles rash, it can be a good idea to try calamine lotion.
How Chemist Online can help
Through this website we have a range of treatments available to buy which can help ease headaches, fever and aches and pains – associated symptoms of shingles.
Advice & Support
Shingles Support Society
Helpline: 0845 123 2305
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