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Will the scars from shingles go away by themselves or are they permanent?

Will the scars from shingles go away by themselves or are they permanent? Is there anything that can be done to help them fade?

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The answer

Shingles is a viral infection known as herpes Zoster and is part of the virus family that causes chicken pox.

Shingles presents with flu like symptoms and nerve pain and then pustules form that gradually crust over, usually over a 5 to 7 day period. The virus can persist for a couple of weeks and is limited to specific areas of the body.

As the pustules scab over it is important that the scabs are not removed, scratched or knocked off as this can cause bacterial infection to occur, herpes simplex virus to spread and also can cause the area affected to scar more.

The marks left on the skin once the sore has healed are usually of an angry red or purple colour but this will gradually fade over a number of weeks and months. Usually these marks have faded completely a year after the initial infection.

Ways to reduce the marking from shingle lesions are:

  • To ensure good hygiene and no disruption to the skin surface as it heals.
  • To ensure that you protect the area from sunlight as this can darken the pigmentation and this can be done by using high SPF creams when exposed to sunlight.
  • To ensure that the skin is kept well moisturised by using emollients, oils and creams containing ingredients such as Aloe Vera, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and other natural products.

However despite the following some scars may still be left. If the scars are very unsightly you may wish to seek a medical review from your local GP as to whether further treatment can help or refer you to a skin specialist or plastic surgeon for other types of treatment or surgery.

If a referral to a specialist is required then it would be wise for you to check your health policy cover before any appointment or treatment is commenced as cosmetic surgery is often not covered by healthcare policies.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses