Shingles is ‘most common in people older than 50’ – do you have symptoms?

Eamonn Holmes says his shingles ‘spoiled’ son’s wedding photos

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The organisation says the risk increases with age, and you should contact your doctor promptly if you suspect shingles, but “especially” if you are 60 or older, “because age significantly increases your risk of complications”. A shingles vaccine is available on the NHS for people in their 70s. It helps reduce your risk of getting shingles.

If you get shingles after being vaccinated, the symptoms can be much milder.

The NHS says the first signs of shingles can be a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin, or a headache or feeling generally unwell. A rash will appear a few days later, according to the health body.

It states: “Usually you get the shingles rash on your chest and tummy, but it can appear anywhere on your body including on your face, eyes and genitals.

“The rash appears as blotches on your skin, on one side of your body only.”

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It says the blotches become itchy blisters that ooze fluid. A few days later, the blisters dry out and scab.

The NHS explains: “The rash can be red, but this can be harder to see on brown and black skin.

“The rash can form a cluster that only appears on one side of your body. The skin remains painful until after the rash has gone.

“The rash may be in and around your eye, making it sore and red. It can affect your sight or hearing and make it hard to move one side of your face.”

The health body says you cannot spread shingles to others. But people who have not had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from you.

“When people get chickenpox, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated later and cause shingles if someone’s immune system is lowered.

“This can be because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy,” says the NHS.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says shingles is caused by varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox.

It explains: “If you have shingles, direct contact with the fluid from your rash blisters can spread VZV to people who have never had chickenpox or never received the chickenpox vaccine.

“If they get infected, they will develop chickenpox, not shingles. They could then develop shingles later in life.

“The risk of spreading VZV to others is low if you cover the shingles rash. People with shingles cannot spread the virus before their rash blisters appear or after the rash crusts.”

The shingles vaccine is not available on the NHS to anyone aged 80 and over because it seems to be less effective in this age group.

The NHS notes there are two shingles vaccines available in the UK:

  • Zostavax, a live vaccine given as one dose
  • Shingrix, a non-live vaccine given as two doses

“If Zostavax is not suitable for you, a GP or practice nurse will decide whether to offer you Shingrix instead,” says the NHS.

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