Shingles

SHINGLES PAIN CAN FEEL LIKE

“SHOCKS” SHOOTING

THROUGH YOUR BODY*

YOU MAY HAVE HEARD HOW SERIOUS THE PAIN OF SHINGLES CAN BE.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SIGNS, SYMPTOMS, COMPLICATIONS,
AND TREATMENT AND PREVENTION OPTIONS

SPEAK TO YOUR DOCTOR FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SHINGLES 

*Individual patients’ symptoms of shingles may vary.
These statements are based on some patients' description of their shingles pain and do not
represent every patient's experience.

WHAT YOU need to know:

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SHINGLES

also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection.1–4

Shingles is the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person gets chickenpox or is exposed to the varicella zoster virus, the virus stays asleep inside the body for life, usually not causing any problems or symptoms. Our immune systems naturally weaken over time as we age which may allow the usually inactive virus to reactivate, causing shingles. It typically produces a painful rash that often blisters, and scabs over in 10 to 15 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. Shingles usually appears on one side of the body or face. 48–72 hours before the rash appears, people may experience pain, itching, tingling, or numbness in the area where the rash will develop.

Shingles can appear as herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO), a shingles rash involving the eye or the nose, and can lead to long-term consequences, including pain, scarring and loss of vision (in rare cases). HZO affects up to 20% of people who get shingles.3,4

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WHO’S AT RISK?

  • Shingles is most common in people over 50, those with a weakened immune system, and those who had chickenpox in the first year of life.4
  • Up to 99.5% of adults 50 years of age and older already have the virus that can cause shingles inside them.1–4
  • Up to 1 in 3 people risk developing shingles in their lifetime.1
  • Reactivation of the varicella zoster virus can cause shingles, regardless of how healthy a person may feel.
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POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS OF SHINGLES

While most people recover fully, some people may experience complications. These can include:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN): Nerve pain that persists after the shingles rash has healed, which can last for months or years in the same area where they had the rash. It can be more common and more severe in older people than in younger people. Up to 25% of people with shingles may develop PHN.3,4
  • Ophthalmic disease: Ophthalmic complications occur in up to 50% of people with HZO, a shingles rash that involves the eye or nose.5 Less than 30% of people with HZO may develop double vision.5 Damage to the optic nerve of the eye is rare and occurs in less than 0.5% of people with HZO.5
  • Neurological problems: Neurological complications such as encephalitis (swelling of the brain) are rare and estimated to occur in less than 1% of people who get shingles.6
  • Hearing problems and altered balance: The effect of shingles on hearing varies considerably, between 7% and 85% of people with shingles may experience mild to moderate hearing loss.7 Problems with balance may develop in less than 1% of people with shingles.8

†This is not an exhaustive list of complications which can arise from shingles. Please speak to a healthcare professional for more information

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TREATMENT AND PREVENTION OPTIONS

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the virus that remains in your body for life after you have had chickenpox. If you haven’t had chickenpox, avoiding contact with active chickenpox and shingles cases, hand hygiene and cough hygiene may reduce your risk of developing chickenpox.

Treatment may reduce the severity and duration of illness, and depending on your symptoms may include weakening the virus and/or pain relief. Immunisation may help reduce your risk of both chickenpox infection and the reactivation that causes shingles.

If you think you may have shingles, please see a doctor as soon as possible.

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SHINGLES

CAN HAVE A NEGATIVE

IMPACT ON YOUR

MOOD,SLEEP,

MOBILITY & SOCIAL LIFE

“I was completely locked away. I had to cancel my plans to go to my 40th high school reunion. I even had to cancel our annual family get-together…”

– patient age 57

“My husband has to do most things for me. He does all of the cooking and most of the cleaning. I can do maybe one room, but otherwise he takes care of me.”

– patient AGE 62

These statements are not a representation of every patient's experience.

BE INFORMED

THINK YOU MIGHT BE AT RISK?§

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I’M AN OLDER ADULT

(50 OR OLDER)

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I'M AN OLDER ADULT

(50 OR OLDER)

Older adults are at a greater risk of developing shingles than younger adults. The incidence of shingles increases with age. Shingles can affect up to half of those who live to 80 years of age.4

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I’VE HAD

CHICKENPOX

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I’VE HAD

CHICKENPOX

Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles: up to 1 in 3 people risk developing shingles in their lifetime.1 Those who had chickenpox in their first year of life are at even greater risk.4

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I AM

IMMUNOCOMPROMISED

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I AM

IMMUNOCOMPROMISED

People who have a weakened immune system are at higher risk of developing shingles and more likely to have a more severe case.

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I HAVE NOT HAD

CHICKENPOX BEFORE

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I HAVE NOT HAD

CHICKENPOX BEFORE

If you have had chickenpox before, then you have the virus which may cause shingles. However, some people are not aware or can't remember if they've been exposed to the chickenpox virus before and may be at risk. If you have not had chickenpox before and you come into close contact with a person who has shingles (e.g. touch an open blister) then you may be at risk of contracting chickenpox. Speak to your doctor for more information.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR FOR MORE INFORMATION.

§This information is general information and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

Shingles FAQ

  • What is shingles?

    Shingles, also known as herpes zoster is the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus (the same virus that causes chickenpox). Shingles typically causes a painful skin rash, often with blisters. It usually affects older adults or people with weakened immune systems. The rash typically appears on one side of the body or face and can last two to four weeks.

  • What are THE typical symptoms?

    Shingles typically produces a painful and blistering rash, erupting in a stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of the torso, along a nerve path. It can develop on the torso, arms, thighs, or head (including in the eyes or ears). The most common places are the chest and abdomen. People often describe the pain as aching, burning, stabbing, or shock-like, and it may interfere with everyday activities, like getting dressed, walking, and sleeping. Other symptoms of shingles may also include sensitivity to light, headache, and a sense of not feeling well.

    Some people experience pain, itching, or tingling before the rash appears, or numbness localised to the area where it will develop. This may happen 48–72 hours before the rash appears.

    You may also experience fever, headache, chills or upset stomach.

    If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see your healthcare professional.

  • Why am I at higher risk after age 50?

    A person’s risk of developing shingles increases with age. This is because the immune system naturally weakens over time as you age, which can allow the usually inactive virus to reactivate, despite how healthy you may feel. Anyone who has had chickenpox already has the virus that can cause shingles.

    Some people may have had chickenpox without knowing or don't remember if they have, these people may also already have the virus.

    Older adults are also at increased risk of having complications such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

  • Am I still at risk if I haven’t had chickenpox?

    If you’ve never had chickenpox, you can’t develop shingles. However, you may have been exposed to the virus without knowing, or you may not remember, which means you may be at risk of developing shingles.

  • Is shingles contagious?

    Shingles occurs when the virus that’s already in your body reactivates, so it cannot be passed from one person to another. However, since the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles are the same, if a person who has never had or isn’t protected against chickenpox comes into direct contact with the blisters of someone with shingles, they may get chickenpox.

  • CAN SHINGLES BE TREATED OR PREVENTED?

    Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the virus that remains in your body for life after you have had chickenpox. If you haven’t had chickenpox, then avoiding contact with active chickenpox and shingles cases, hand hygiene and cough hygiene may reduce your risk.

    Treatment may reduce the severity and duration of illness, and depending on your symptoms may include weakening the virus and/or pain relief. Immunisation may help reduce your risk of both chickenpox infection and the reactivation that causes shingles.

    If you think you may have shingles, please see a doctor as soon as possible.

  • What do I do if I have shingles?

    Contact your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have a case of shingles. Your doctor will also be able to advise you on how to manage any symptoms you may be experiencing.

KNOW THE FACTS

Don’t let shingles AFFECT your plans.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR FOR MORE INFORMATION.

  1. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention of herpes zoster: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. 2008 May;57(RR-5):1-30.
  2. Zoster vaccine: Frequently asked questions. National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) Fact sheet: June 2021. (accessed June 2021).
  3. Zoster vaccine for Australian adults. National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) Fact sheet: June 2021. (accessed June 2021).
  4. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). Australian Immunisation handbook, Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra, 2018, immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au. (accessed March 2021).
  5. Kedar S, Jayagopal LN, Berger JR. Neurological and Ophthalmological Manifestations of Varicella Zoster Virus. J Neuroophthalmol. 2019 Jun;39(2):220-231. doi: 10.1097/WNO.0000000000000721.
  6. Espiritu, Rachel MD; Rich, Michael MD Herpes Zoster Encephalitis, Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice: July 2007 - Volume 15 - Issue 4 - p 284-288 doi: 10.1097/IPC.0b013e31803126f4.
  7. Cohen BE, Durstenfeld A, Roehm PC. Viral causes of hearing loss: a review for hearing health professionals. Trends Hear. 2014 Jul 29;18:2331216514541361. doi: 10.1177/2331216514541361.
  8. Crouch AE, Andaloro C. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. 2020 Sep 27. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 32491341.