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Shingles: Symptoms and effects of virus

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The first signs of shingles are usually a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin, a headache and feeling generally unwell. A rash will typically appear a few days later. According to the NHS it normally takes up to four weeks for the rash to heal.

It says your skin can be “painful for weeks after the rash has gone”, but it “usually” gets better over time.

However, topamax health benefits around one in five patients will develop post-herpetic neuralgia – a “lasting pain” in the areas of your skin where you had shingles.

“People aged 50 and over are particularly at risk,” the NHS explains.

“Many people with post-herpetic neuralgia make a full recovery within a year.

“But symptoms occasionally last for several years or may be permanent.”

The main symptom of post-herpetic neuralgia is “intermittent or continuous nerve pain” in an area of your skin previously affected by shingles.

The NHS says: “The pain may come and go or be continuous. It can be described as burning, stabbing, shooting, aching, throbbing or like electric shocks.”

The affected area may also:

  • feel intensely itchy
  • be more sensitive to pain than usual
  • feel painful as a result of something that would not normally hurt, such as a light touch or cool breeze

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It is recommended that you see your GP if you experience this on-going pain after shingles.

They will be able to prescribe medication to tackle it.

“Medicines can ease the symptoms of post-herpetic neuralgia, although they may not relieve the pain completely, “ the NHS states.

“Widely available painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, do not usually help, so your doctor may prescribe a different type of painkiller.

“Some medicines used to treat depression also work for nerve pain and are sometimes used for post-herpetic neuralgia.”

Shingles is closely related to chickenpox, with both caused by the varicella zoster virus.

The NHS adds: “In post-herpetic neuralgia, the virus causes inflammation of the nerves under the skin of the affected area.

“It’s not clear why some people with shingles develop post-herpetic neuralgia, but increasing age, pain during the early stage of shingles and severe pain throughout an episode of shingles are all associated with an increased risk of the condition.”

There is no definitive way to prevent post-herpetic neuralgia, however antiviral medication taken when shingles is detected can reduce the chances of it developing.

It is advised to attend your GP as soon as you have shingles to discuss taking this medication.

A shingles vaccination, which is available to people in their 70s, will prevent getting shingles in the first place.

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