Shingles and the CLL patient

This is not meant to be a comprehensive article. If you have any reason to believe that you have shingles, contact your doctor.  The Shingles Support Society  is a good UK site for more information on symptoms , treatment and complications. There is an excellent guide that you can take to your GP. 

All CLL patients may have a damaged immune system to some degree so can get shingles more easily. The shingles can spread through the body faster. If the shingles is not treated early then neuralgia is more likely and can last  for a long time after the rash goes. 

The first symptoms of shingles is very sensitive tingling or burning  skin on one side of your body or your face. This can happen before you get a rash. There can even be a burning pain as the first symptom.

If you believe that you may have shingles, contact your doctor immediately. If you are going through an NHS help sevice NHS 111 for England and Scotland  or NHS Direct Wales,  repeat to every person that you talk to that you have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia and you have a damaged immune system. The sooner you get treatment, the less the shingles will spread.  You may be able to avoid post herpetic neuralgia, a condition that can follow shingles. Post herpetic neuralgia is unremittingly painful, sometimes for months.

Most adults have the shingles virus living dormant inside them. If you ever had chicken pox, then you have the shingles virus. The virus, herpes varicela-zoster, is transmitted through contact with the contents of the blisters that form in chicken pox or shingles, and in the crusts from the scabs.  No-one knows what triggers shingles attacks.

You should be aware that during the infectious blistering stage of shingles you could transmit the virus, by shedding, to someone who has not had chicken pox. You can infect other people.

Three types of people are vulnerable to infection:

1. Immune suppressed people like yourself.

2. Pregnant women.

3. Children who have not had a vaccination against chicken pox, and have not had the disease.

Your own immune status must be determined by your own doctors. There are no rules that say that a new CLL patient does not have a damaged immune system or that at 6 months after chemotherapy your immune system will have recovered. Unfortunately, there are many people who have damaged immune systems many years after chemotherapy. 

Please note that the shingles vaccine contains live virus and should NOT be used for CLL patients or for anyone who is immune suppressed.

Go to Vaccinations page

Go to Self Help page