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What is shingles?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has had chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the body's nerve tissue. Later in life, usually when the immune system is weakened due to factors like aging or illness, the virus can reactivate and cause shingles.

Shingles typically manifests as a painful rash that develops on one side of the body, often in a band-like pattern along a nerve pathway. The rash consists of fluid-filled blisters that eventually crust over and heal. Other symptoms may include itching, burning, tingling sensations, fever, headache, and fatigue.

Shingles is contagious, but unlike chickenpox, it cannot be passed from person to person through casual contact. However, the virus can be spread to individuals who have not had chickenpox and who come into direct contact with the fluid from the shingles blisters.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

Symptoms of shingles typically include:

  • Pain, burning, or tingling sensations, often localised to one side of the body.
  • A red rash that develops into fluid-filled blisters, which may crust over as they heal.
  • Itching or discomfort in the affected area.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue or general malaise.
  • Sensitivity to touch or light.

The rash usually appears in a single stripe or band pattern along a nerve pathway on one side of the body, most commonly on the torso or face.

It is important to note that not everyone with shingles will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.

When to seek help?

While shingles cannot be cured, there are treatments available to alleviate symptoms.

Typically, shingles symptoms improve within two to four weeks, but prompt treatment can help lessen their severity and minimise complications.

How can a Lincolnshire Co-op Pharmacy help?

Our pharmacists can assist individuals aged 18 and over.

They will inquire about your medical history and symptoms to rule out other conditions requiring urgent referral to a healthcare provider.

They may suggest over-the-counter pain relief options.

If you visit the pharmacy within 72 hours of your rash appearing, treatment with antiviral tablets may be considered necessary, which our team can provide.

If you are under 18 years old, we are unable to provide this service. However, our team members can offer self-care advice or refer you to your GP if needed.

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