Shingles is a viral disease that affects the nerves & surrounding skin which is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus1

90% of adults in Ireland are immune to chickenpox because they have had the disease as a child.1 If you have had chickenpox, you have a greater risk of developing shingles in later life.

If you have concerns about shingles, or would like more information, click on the various links on this website or speak to your GP, Practice Nurse, or other Healthcare Professional

SCROLL DOWN TO LEARN ABOUT Shingles

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4 burning questions about shingles

  • The Virus
  • The Cause
  • The Symptoms
  • The Treatment
  • What is shingles?

    Shingles (also know as herpes zoster) is a viral disease affecting nerves and surrounding skin. It is caused by the reactivation of the same virus that causes chickenpox.1

    Once you have had chickenpox, the virus remains dormant (inactive) in your nervous system. It can reactivate later in life and cause shingles.1

    90% of adults have had chickenpox. If you’ve ever had chickenpox, you could be at risk of developing shingles.1 Shingles tends to occur more frequently in people over the age of 50.1

    The Rash
    painful rash, usually affecting one side of the body, most often on the upper body
  • The cause of shingles

    After chickenpox, the virus is not eliminated from your body but remains in the nervous system in a dormant (inactive) state.1

    It is not fully known what causes the virus to reactivate, but this often occurs many years after the original chickenpox infection.1

    Up to 90% of adults have had chickenpox. They have the virus that causes shingles inside them and may develop the disease. Shingles tends to occur more often in older people due to natural age-related weakening of the immune system.2

  • The symptoms of shingles

    The symptoms of shingles can range from mild to severe and can be very unpleasant for some.

    Shingles is a viral disease of the nerves and skin. It is characterised by a painful rash, usually affecting one side of the body, often on the trunk, but shingles can also develop on the head and neck, or around the eye.

    Shingles can often start with a headache, fever, and tiredness, and you are likely to feel unwell. It's very common to feel a tingling or burning pain in the area of the skin where the rash later appears. In a small proportion of people this pain may become quite severe.

    Within a few days or weeks, this area of pain will start to develop a red rash, which will turn into fluid-filled blisters. A few days after appearing, the blisters dry out and scabs form where the blisters have been. It usually takes 2-4 weeks for the rash to heal completely.

    Most people recover but some people may experience long-term nerve pain that can remain for many months, or for a few people, even years. Like shingles itself, the risk of nerve damage and developing long lasting nerve pain increases as you get older.1

  • Treating & Preventing shingles

    The symptoms of shingles can range from mild to severe and can be very unpleasant for some.

    Shingles and its complications can be difficult to manage. The treatment options vary from person to person, depending on the area affected by shingles.

    It is important to see your GP as soon as possible after the rash occurs, as treatments, if needed, should be started as soon as possible. Your GP may prescribe painkilling and/or anti-viral medication.

    Shingles can also be prevented with a vaccination. Shingles vaccination is not part of the routine vaccination schedule in Ireland. The vaccine may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions. For more information on Shingles, speak to your GP, pharmacist or nurse.1

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Pain and complications

Most people do not have any long-term effects, but for some people shingles can cause complications. The long-term nerve pain that some people experience after the shingles rash has healed, is known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN is the most frequent complication of shingles. This can be a severe, unpleasant, long-term nerve pain that is often described as burning, stabbing or throbbing. This can last weeks, months or for a few people, even years.1

For some people even a slight breeze against the skin can be painful and distressing. PHN can affect quality of life and the majority of sufferers say they have less enjoyment of life and find their sleep, work and social life disrupted. The older you are, the more likely you are to have long-lasting nerve pain.

Sometimes shingles can develop in the eye and/or affect the skin of the eyelid. This can cause severe pain and lead to decreased vision or, rarely, permanent blindness in the affected eye.

Shingles can also lead to other complications like scarring, skin infections or, rarely, hearing loss.1

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Shingles rash

Shingles is characterised by a painful rash, usually affecting one side of the body, most often on the trunk or torso, but shingles can also develop on the head and neck, or around the eye.1

The rash develops into painful, fluid-filled blisters, which burst, dry out and form scabs where the blisters have been.1

In 10-20% of cases, shingles affects the eye, which can lead to worsened vision or even blindness in the affected eye. Shingles can lead to other complications like scarring, skin infections or, rarely, hearing loss. 2

Shingles Rash Back Shingles Rash Back Shingles Rash Chest Shingles Rash Side Shingles Rash Side Shingles Rash Eye Shingles Rash Neck Shingles Rash Blisters Shingles Rash
Back Back II Chest Side I Side II Eye Neck Blisters

there are treatments available for shingles

there are treatments available for shingles The severity of shingles varies from person to person and some people will require treatment to help ease the symptoms of shingles. There is no cure for shingles, but treatment can help ease your symptoms.

If you think you've developed shingles, see your GP as soon as possible. Early treatment may help reduce the severity of your symptoms. Your GP may prescribe pain relief medication and/or antiviral medication.

For further info about Shingles and treatment advice, you can visit the HSE website

HSE Shingles Info*

*By clicking this link you will leave this website

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How likely am I to get shingles?

Shingles Risk Dail Shingles Risk Hand Shingles Risk dail glass

There is a 1 in 4 chance you could develop shingles at some point in your lifetime.2

It is not fully understood why the shingles virus reactivates in some people and not others, but it is thought to be due to a lower immune system.1

The immune system weakens with age, and so the chance of developing shingles increases as we get older. 2 out of 3 shingles cases occur in people over 50 years of age, and it also tends to be more severe in people over 50 years of age. 3

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myths and facts about shingles

You can catch shingles from someone with chickenpox

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus within your body, so you cannot catch shingles from anyone else. However, if someone has not had chickenpox they may catch it from someone who has shingles.

Shingles only affects old or ill people
Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles. The chances of developing shingles are very low before the age of 50, although young and otherwise healthy people do sometimes develop shingles. The immune system weakens with age and so the chance of developing shingles increases as we get older.
I can’t get shingles because I can’t remember having chickenpox
If you have definitely never had chickenpox you can’t develop shingles. However, some people don’t know whether or not they had chickenpox as a child, because the infection may have been so mild it didn’t cause any obvious symptoms. You can still develop shingles even if you have only had a very mild case of chickenpox.
I’ve already had shingles so I can’t get it again
Unfortunately, some people can suffer from more than one episode of shingles, so if you've had Shingles before, it's still important to talk to your healthcare professional about your risk of getting it again.

You can catch shingles from someone with chickenpox

Shingles only affects old or ill people

I can’t get shingles because I can’t remember having chickenpox

I’ve already had shingles so I can’t get it again

Shingles Facts

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus within your body, so you cannot catch shingles from anyone else. However, if someone has not had chickenpox they may catch it from someone who has shingles. 1

Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles. The chances of developing shingles are very low before the age of 50, although young and otherwise healthy people do sometimes develop shingles. The immune system weakens with age and so the chance of developing shingles increases as we get older.

If you have definitely never had chickenpox you can’t develop shingles. However, some people don’t know whether or not they had chickenpox as a child, because the infection may have been so mild it didn’t cause any obvious symptoms. You can still develop shingles even if you have only had a very mild case of chickenpox.

Unfortunately, some people can suffer from more than one episode of shingles, so if you've had Shingles before, it's still important to talk to your healthcare professional about your risk of getting it again.

Patient Information Leaflet

Click here to download the leaflet '10 burning questions about shingles'.

Shingles Burning Questions

Patient Poster

Click here to download a copy of a poster with information about shingles.

Shingles Poster

More Information

Speak with your GP, Practice Nurse or other Healthcare Professional for more information on Shingles.

For further info about Shingles and treatment advice, you can visit the HSE website

References:

  1. https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/s/shingles/
  2. Leisegang T. Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus. Natural History, Risk Factors, Clinical Presentation and Morbidity. Ophthalmol 2008; 115(Suppl) S3-S12. Shaikh S, Ta CN. Evaluation and Management of Herpes Zoster Opthalmicus, Fam Physician. 2002; 66: 1723-30
  3. Johnson, R., McElhaney, J., Pedalino, B. and Levin, M., 2007. Prevention of herpes zoster and its painful and debilitating complications. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 11, pp.S43-S48.

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About MSD

The desire to remain in good health connects us all. At Sanofi Pasteur MSD, we believe that vaccination is a way to move Europe forward towards a future where people can stay ahead of disease. Vaccines are our passion because we know that they are the key to a world in better health.

We are dedicated to individual and public health and we stand for equal access to vaccines for all. In developing vaccines across Europe, we are committed to being a trusted partner to policy makers, authorities, experts, healthcare professionals and those using our vaccines. We strive to understand the needs and expectations of all of our stakeholders, and our actions are driven by the common goals we share.

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Learn More About Shingles

If you would like to know more about shingles, its causes and symptoms, as well as a guide to sorting facts from myths, please click below to download the information booklet, '10 burning questions about shingles' for further information.

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What is Post-herpetic Neuralgia (PHN)

Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) can be a severe, unpleasant long term nerve pain. It is often described as burning, stabbing or throbbing, even a slight breeze against the skin can be painful and distressing.

Chronic nerve pain can affect quality of life. The majority of sufferers find their sleep, work and social life disrupted.

For some this nerve pain can last weeks, months or for a few people even years. Like shingles itself, the risk of developing long- lasting nerve pain increases as you get older.

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About Sanofi Pasteur MSD

The desire to remain in good health connects us all. At Sanofi Pasteur MSD, we believe that vaccination is a way to move Europe forward towards a future where people can stay ahead of disease. Vaccines are our passion because we know that they are the key to a world in better health.

We are dedicated to individual and public health and we stand for equal access to vaccines for all. In developing vaccines across Europe, we are committed to being a trusted partner to policy makers, authorities, experts, healthcare professionals and those using our vaccines. We strive to understand the needs and expectations of all of our stakeholders, and our actions are driven by the common goals we share.

05/14 IR00226i
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