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Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox (varicella-zoster). If you have previously had chicken pox, the virus remains dormant in your nerve cells.Shingles is caused by the reactivation of this virus and, therefore, anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk of developing shingles. People who have never had chicken pox can catch the virus from someone who has shingles, however, these people will actually contract chicken pox not shingles.



The symptoms and severity of shingles can vary from person to person. Common symptoms that you may experience include a skin rash and painful blisters. Initially, your skin will feel tender and painful. Then your skin will turn red and develop tiny fluid filled blisters. The rash tends to form in the shape of a belt or band across your body as the virus progresses down the nerves of your spinal cord and then works around your body.      



It is important to seek medical assistance if you believe that you have developed shingles. Visit your doctor to discuss suitable medical treatment for your shingles. It will be more beneficial for you to visit the doctor within 24 hours of developing shingles as medication will work better if used within the first three days of developing the rash.  Taking a cool bath, or using cold compresses on the blisters may help relieve pain and itching.  


Once the shingles have cleared, if you are still experiencing pain you may have what is known as post-herpetic neuralgia. This is more likely to occur if you had shingles on your face rather than your body. It is important to go back to your doctor for further medical treatment if you still have pain after your shingles rash has disappeared.     



A shingles and chickenpox vaccine is available in Australia. It is recommended to get a chicken pox vaccination if you have not previously had chicken pox and have not been vaccinated to avoid any complications you may experience if you contract chicken pox from someone with shingles.       



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.  



Better Health Channel  

NSW Government Health