Shingles and what you need to know

Shingles can occur at any age but tends to cause the greatest problems for older people

Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group is reminding people aged 70 that they can have a vaccine to reduce their chances of developing the condition.

Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox typically in childhood. The virus remains dormant in the nervous system but can be reactivated later in life and cause shingles.

Shingles usually affects a specific area on one side of the body with the main symptom being a painful rash that develops into itchy blisters containing particles of the virus.

You should see your GP as soon as possible if you think you have symptoms of shingles. Early treatment may reduce the severity of your symptoms and the risk of developing complications. An episode of shingles typically lasts two to four weeks

A vaccine called Zostavax which can reduce your chances of developing shingles is now routinely offered on the NHS as a single injection to 70-year-olds

There's also a catch-up shingles immunisation programme for those aged 71, 72 78 and 79.

Anyone who wishes to have the shingles vaccine but is not eligible for the NHS vaccination programme, will usually need to visit a private clinic and pay a fee.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, said: “It’s worth taking the time and effort to visit your doctor to get the shingles vaccine as it protects you against a painful condition. You only need to be vaccinated once and it’s important that you get it while you’re the right age.

“We offer the shingles vaccine routinely to individuals at the age of 70 years to boost their immunity to prevent the development of shingles and significantly reduce the incidence of post herpetic neuralgia – persistent nerve pain that can occur at the site of a previous attack of shingles.

“Since the introduction of the shingles vaccine there has been a considerable reduction in the number of cases of this debilitating and painful condition.”

Find more information on shingles at NHS Choices