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What is Shingles?

Credit: David Cheskin / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Islanders in Jersey are being offered free vaccines against shingles during the year of their 70th birthday, and below is some information about the virus.

What is shingles?

  • Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the area of skin around it.
  • It is caused by the herpes virus, called varicella-zoster, but it is unknown what triggers the virus.
  • It is the same virus which causes chickenpox.
  • Following the chickenpox infection, the virus can lie dormant in the nervous tissue but may reappear following reactivation as shingles.
  • It is possible to have shingles more than once.

Dr Chad Taylor, Consultant in Pain Medicine, says the virus can lay dormant for years.

Effects

  • It can cause burning blisters and severe pain, which can last for up to two years.
  • Any part of your body can be affected, including your face and eyes, although the chest and abdomen are most common.
  • Your body's immune system attacks the virus, which leads to an inflammatory response around the nerve, which is what causes the pain.
  • It can destroy the nerve which is being affected.
  • People have described the pain as a burning pain, or an electric shock pain
  • In rare cases, it can cause blindness and be fatal.

Treatment

  • The immune system is the only way to defeat the virus.
  • That is why immunisation is so important when dealing with the virus.
  • Islanders in Jersey are now being offered free vaccines against shingles during the year of their 70th birthday.

Source (UK Government website/Dr Chad Taylor)