Herpes Zoster

Herpes Zoster: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Herpes Zoster, otherwise known as shingles, is a viral disease caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It is characterized by a painful rash or blisters on the skin. While most people who have had chickenpox will develop shingles, it is not always the case. Anyone can develop shingles if they are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system.

The most common symptom of shingles is a rash, which usually appears on one side of the body or face. The rash starts as red bumps that become blisters filled with fluid. The blisters then break open and scab over. The rash usually occurs in a band, a strip, or a small area on one side of the body or face. The rash usually lasts between two to four weeks.

When a person is infected with the virus that causes shingles, it can lead to other complications. Some of the most common complications include:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia: Ongoing pain, tingling, or burning in one area of skin where shingles once appeared.
  • Encephalitis: Swelling of the brain, which can cause headaches and confusion.
  • Vision loss: In rare cases, the virus that causes shingles affects the nerve of your eye and can lead to vision loss.

There is a vaccine available to protect against shingles. It is recommended for people over the age of 50 who have had chickenpox. It is a two-dose vaccine, which should be given two to six months apart. It is not 100 percent effective, but it can reduce the risk of developing shingles by up to 80 percent.

Treatment for shingles includes antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. These medications can reduce the duration and severity of shingles. Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help relieve the pain associated with shingles. It is important to speak with a doctor before taking any of these medications.