Shingle is a skin infection due to reactivation of Chicken pox Virus (Varicella). It is commonly seen after age 50.
When a person is infected with Chicken Pox , the virus then enters the sensation carrying nerves where they live silently for life.
The virus then reactivates if you have reduced immunity , trauma and some other risk factors.
It cannot then be contained in the nerve and then moves up to the skin.
People may get flu like symptoms including headaches, malaise and fever.
Once the rash comes up there is red fluid filled itchy area localised to one side of the body. This can come on any area , as nerves are present through out our body. Often pain may precede the rash.
If left untreated there are risks of complications skin infection , spread of infection through the body including chest infections (Pneumonia) , brain infections (Meningitis) , Gastroenteritis etc.
Once you notice the rash and pain you could take simple pain relief, Cool the area , wear loose fitting clothes. Stay away from public areas , specially if any one is pregnant.
Timely management seeing a family doctor immediately (within 24 hours) you notice a rash or if you have concerns, will help minimise the risk of post infective complications including long standing (sometimes life-long) stabbing or shooting nerve pains in the area of infection and potential depression following these pains.
You’re regular General Practitioner is able to offer a vaccine funded through government between the ages of 71-79 years for patients who do not have any underlying risk of complication or have not actively had the infection recently.
This has been shown to reduce the risk of Shingles and post infective complications. Discuss with your doctor carefully.
Reference : Fitzpatrick’s Color Atlast of Dermatology 6th Edition, Dermnet