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In Good Health // Understanding Shingles

Shingles, medically known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that leads to a painful rash. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus responsible for chickenpox. After recovering from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body, specifically in nerve tissues near the spinal cord and brain. Years later, this virus can reactivate, causing shingles.


- Pain, burning, numbness, or tingling: This is often the first symptom and can be severe.

- Red rash: Typically appears a few days after the initial pain. The rash usually develops on one side of the body, often in a stripe.

- Fluid-filled blisters: These may break open and crust over.

- Itching

Other symptoms can include fever, headache, sensitivity to light, and fatigue.

Risk Factors:

- Age: Shingles is more common in people over 50.

- Weakened immune system: This can be due to various conditions, including HIV/AIDS, cancer treatments, or medications.

- History of chickenpox: Only people who have had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can develop shingles.


- Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN): Persistent pain in the areas where the shingles rash occurred, lasting long after the rash has healed.

- Vision loss: If shingles affects the eye.

- Neurological problems: Depending on which nerves are affected, shingles can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), facial paralysis, or hearing or balance problems.

- Skin infections: Blisters can become infected.


- Antiviral medications: Such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir can help reduce the severity and duration of the illness if started early.

- Pain management: Includes over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications, and sometimes nerve block injections.

- Home care: Keeping the rash clean and dry, applying cool compresses, and wearing loose clothing can help.

Early treatment and vaccination are crucial in managing and preventing shingles, ensuring a better quality of life for those at risk.

The Shingles Vaccine

The shingles vaccine, specifically Shingrix, is a crucial medical advancement in the prevention of shingles, a condition caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. Shingrix has largely replaced the older vaccine, Zostavax, due to its higher efficacy and longer-lasting protection. This vaccine is highly recommended for adults, particularly those over 50, who are at an increased risk of developing shingles and its severe complications, such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

Is Shingrix effective?

Shingrix is a recombinant, adjuvanted vaccine, meaning it uses a non-live component of the virus along with an adjuvant to enhance the body’s immune response. Unlike Zostavax, which is a live attenuated vaccine, Shingrix does not contain a live virus, making it safer for individuals with weakened immune systems.

Clinical trials have shown that Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and PHN in adults aged 50 and older. This efficacy remains high (85% or more) for at least four years post-vaccination, providing long-term protection.

How is the vaccine given?

Shingrix is administered in two doses, with the second dose given two to six months after the first. This two-dose schedule is crucial for achieving the highest level of protection. The vaccine is injected intramuscularly, typically in the upper arm.

Who should get the vaccine?

MOHAP recommends Shingrix for all healthy adults aged 50 years and older. It is also recommended for adults 19 years and older who have weakened immune systems due to disease or therapy. Individuals who have previously received Zostavax should also get Shingrix to ensure better and longer-lasting protection.

Even those who have had shingles or received the chickenpox vaccine should get vaccinated with Shingrix. Prior shingles infections do not guarantee immunity from future outbreaks, and the chickenpox vaccine does not provide the same level of protection against shingles as Shingrix.

Side Effects and Safety

Like all vaccines, Shingrix can cause side effects, though they are generally mild to moderate and temporary. Common side effects include pain at the injection site, muscle pain, fatigue, headache, shivering, fever, and gastrointestinal symptoms. These side effects typically resolve within a few days. Severe allergic reactions are rare, and the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the potential risks.

Understanding shingles and the importance of the Shingrix vaccination can help prevent the severe complications associated with this condition. Early treatment and preventative measures ensures a better quality of life for those at risk.

Book your Shingles vaccination at Cornerstone Clinic. Contact 050 494 6377 to arrange an appointment with GP, Dr. Ruhil Badiani.

, Dr. Ruhil Badiani.


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