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Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 25th April 2019

Shingles is a viral infection that results in a rash and painful blisters. It’s caused by the varicella-zoster virus - the virus responsible for causing chickenpox. If scratched, the blisters can scab and sometimes lead to scarring. Shingles is infectious and can be particularly dangerous for certain groups of people, including babies and pregnant women.


Most people develop shingles after knowingly having had chickenpox - the virus lies dormant in nerve cells, and can be triggered many years later. It’s not clear why or how the virus reactivates, though it is more common in those who have weakened immune systems or the elderly. If you think you may have shingles, contact a doctor as soon as possible. There is currently no cure, but a GP can provide advice and medication to ease the symptoms.

Symptoms of shingles

Most people associate shingles with the rash which forms when the virus reactivates. The rash will be inflamed, and you may notice fluid-filled blisters appearing in lines or groups. They may be painful or itchy, and they can affect any area of the body - even around the eyes.

Shingles also has a number of other symptoms, including:

  • A fever or high temperature
  • Headaches
  • Stabbing pains or aches
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Feeling generally ‘under the weather’

There’s also a 1 in 5 chance that you may develop post-herpetic neuralgia after suffering from shingles. This causes nerve pain which can last for months after the initial virus has subsided. Speak to a GP if you think there’s a chance you may be suffering from post-herpetic neuralgia.

Treatment for shingles

There isn’t currently a cure for shingles - the symptoms subside on its own without any treatment. However, there are treatment options which can speed up recovery time, as well as reducing the pain and irritation caused by the virus. Antiviral medicines can help reduce the duration of the shingles, and your GP can prescribe topical creams which will provide relief if the rash is particularly itchy or painful. Speak to a Babylon doctor today for more information about shingles symptoms and treatments.