HomeHealthHealth Conditions

How to identify and prevent shingles

How to identify and prevent shingles
What is shingles and how can you prevent it? Follow this advice to identify, treat and prevent yourself from catching shingles
Shingles, known medically as herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It typically affects elderly people or those with immune deficiency. It occasionally affects children who have had chickenpox in the first few years of their life. Only people who have had chickenpox are at risk of shingles because it is caused by the same virus.
Following an attack of chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in certain sensory nerves, sometimes for years. When the virus is reactivated, it travels via the nerve paths to the skin, causing a characteristic "band" of rash.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

Shingles symptoms
Shingles is known for causing a telltale painful rash
These are the symptoms you should look out for:
  • A burning sensation on the nerve paths along which the virus is travelling.
  • The pain and rash correspond to the position of the nerve paths and are generally on only one side of the body or face.
  • Fever, headache and enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Small blisters on red, swollen skin.
  • Blisters burst after 3–5 days into sores that form scabs. The scabs fall off after 2–3 weeks.
  • The area where the rash appeared can become very painful for weeks after the scabs have gone. This side effect of shingles is due to nerve damage and may last several months.
See a doctor as soon as symptoms appear. The doctor will make a diagnosis on the basis of your medical history and the appearance of the rash. Antiviral drugs are usually prescribed.
Shingles usually subsides within a month of the first symptoms appearing. Some people rarely have more than one or two attacks.

Shingles complications

An attack of shingles near the eyes or at the top of the nose can be linked with scarring on the cornea, adversely affecting vision. Shingles on the face may, in rare cases, lead to a temporary hearing loss, facial paralysis and a reduced sense of taste.


If you have not had chickenpox, avoid contact with anyone with chickenpox or shingles. 
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