Complications of shingles are more likely if you have a weakened immune system (the body's natural defence system) or are elderly.
Some of the main complications associated with shingles are described below.
Postherpetic neuralgia is the most common complication of shingles. It's not clear exactly how many people are affected, but some estimates suggest as many as one in five people over 50 could developpostherpetic neuralgia asthe result of shingles.
Postherpetic neuralgia can cause severe nerve pain (neuralgia) and intense itchingthat persists after the rash and any other symptoms of shingles have gone.
Types of pain experienced by people with postherpetic neuralgia include:
Postherpetic neuralgia sometimes resolves after around three to six months, although it can last for years and some cases can be permanent. It can be treated with a number of different painkilling medicines.
Read about treating postherpetic neuralgia .
If one of your eyes is affected by shingles (ophthalmic shingles), there's a risk you could develop further problems in the affected eye, such as:
If not treated promptly, there's a risk that ophthalmic shingles could cause a degree of permanent vision loss.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a complication that can occur if shingles affects certain nerves in your head.
Inthe USRamsay Hunt syndrome is estimated to affect5in 100,000 people every year, and may affect a similar number of people in the UK.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome can cause:
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is usually treatedwith antiviral medication and corticosteroids .
The earlier treatment is started, the better the outcome. Around three-quarters of people given antiviral medication within 72 hoursof the start of their symptoms usually make a complete recovery.
If treatment is delayed, only about half of those treated will recover completely.
Thosewho don't make a full recovery may be left with permanent problems, such as a degree of permanent facial paralysis or hearing loss.
A number of other possible problems can also sometimes develop as a result of shingles, including:
Shingles is rarely life threatening, but complicationslike those mentioned abovemeanaround1 in every 1,000 cases in adults over the age of 70 is fatal.
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
Read about treatments for shingles, which can help ease your symptoms until the condition improves.
Read about complications of shingles, which are more likely if you have a weakened immune system or are elderly.