Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox – and you can only get shingles if you have already had chickenpox. The disease causes a painful skin rash with blisters in a localized area. The blisters look like a belt on the one side of the body. Shingles can be very painful, but it is not dangerous and usually heals by itself. It mainly affects people over 50 years of age.


APPOTEK can help you with shingles.


Only those who have had chickenpox can get shingles because they are caused by the same virus, Varicella zoster. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.


The skin will then become inflamed. Depending on which nerve tissue the virus was dormant in, the inflammation may appear in different places.


Shingles itself is not contagious. You can’t spread the condition to another person. However, the varicella-zoster virus is contagious, and if you have shingles, you can spread the virus to another person, which could then cause them to develop chickenpox, if they have not had chickenpox before. Therefore, you should avoid contact with people with impaired immune systems.


The first signs of shingles can be:


  • a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin
  • a headache or feeling generally unwell


Somewhere between 1 and 5 days after the tingling or burning feeling on the skin, a red rash will appear. A few days later, the rash will turn into fluid-filled blisters. The blisters are small and can be very painful.


Usually you get shingles on your chest and tummy, but it can appear on your face, eyes and genitals.  They often look like a belt on one side of the body. The pain is often the most intensive for a week and then becomes less severe, but some may have pain for a longer time. Shingles is usually located:


  • on the face
  • on the chest
  • on the neck
  • on one arm or leg.


About a week to 10 days after they appear, the blisters dry up and crust over. A couple of weeks later, the scabs clear up.

Prevention and protection

Shingles can be prevented by the chickenpox vaccine if the vaccine is administered before the individual gets chickenpox. If primary infection has already occurred, there are shingles vaccines that reduce the risk of developing shingles or developing severe shingles if the disease occurs.


If you have mild pain, prescription painkillers may help. You will find them at pharmacies.


Keep the blisters clean and dry to avoid skin infection. 


To prevent spreading the varicella-zoster virus if you have shingles, be sure to keep the rash clean and covered. Don’t touch the blisters and wash your hands often. You should avoid being around at-risk people such as pregnant women and people with weak immune systems.


How to treat shingles symptoms yourself


  1. take paracetamol to ease pain.
  2. keep the rash clean and dry to reduce the risk of infection.
  3. wear loose-fitting clothing.
  4. use a cool compress (a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel or a wet cloth) a few times a day.


If you have severe problems and pain, there are prescription drugs to relieve the symptoms. They are given after individual assessment by a physician.

When to consult a doctor

Consult a doctor if you get blisters near your eyes, or if:

  • you have an impaired immune system
  • blisters are painful and widespread.

How APPOTEK can help

APPOTEK can help you with shingles. A doctor will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms in the online consultation, then may prescribe treatment or refer you for further examination.


Valeria Chernikova, Neurologist, M.D.