Shingles, also referred as herpes zoster, is a viral infection which appears as a single strip of blisters caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The same virus causes <chicken pox> after which it lies dormant in your nerve tissues for years before reactivating as shingles. It usually appears on one side of the body as a single stripe of blisters, typically on the torso, face, or neck. It mostly causes burning and pain.

​A person with shingles can transfer the varicella-zoster virus to another person by direct contact to the shingles rash. However, the person infected will likely get chicken pox due to the virus, rather than shingles. 

You are at a higher risk of getting shingles if you:

  • are above fifty years of age

  • have a weak immune system due to certain diseases like diabetes, autoimmune diseases or HIV/AIDS

  • have undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy

  • have taken certain medications which weaken the immune system, like drugs or steroids given after organ transplant

Shingles can last for two to six weeks and may appear more than once but that happens rarely.

Symptoms for shingles usually appear on small patches of skin on one side of the body. These symptoms may include:

  • Pain or burning sensation

  • Rash that begins few days after the pain starts and wrap around from the spine to the torso

  • Fluid-filled blisters that seep and crust over

  • Itching

Some people experience additional symptoms apart from blisters including:

  • Fever and chills

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Sensitivity to light​​

Prompt consultation from a doctor is necessary if you suspect shingles. Set an immediate appointment from our doctors at Teeth and Skin Service Lines at The Aga Khan University Hospital if:

  • The pain and rash occurs near the eye as untreated rash can cause permanent eye damage

  • You are above seventy years of age as the complications increase with age

  • You or someone in your family suffer from a weak immune system

  • The rash is extensive and painful​​

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​​

Your doctor may inquire about the symptoms you have been experiencing and your medical history followed by an examination of the blisters. Mostly, the characteristic appearance of the rash is enough for diagnosis​​

Shingles can be a constant source of pain and discomfort for you. While shingles cannot be cured, its symptoms can be lessened and the length of the disease can be shortened by taking certain medications, including:

  • Antiviral medication for quick recovery and to reduce pain

  • Anti-inflammation drugs to reduce pain and swelling

  • Numbing creams, patches, or gels

  • Narcotic medications to reduce pain

  • Anticonvulsants or tricyclic antidepressants to treat prolonged pain

  • Antihistamines to reduce itching​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.