Herpes zoster

Herpes zoster is commonly called shingles and it is caused by the same virus that is responsible for the chicken pox. It is in the same family as herpes and can remain dormant in the body long after the patient has contracted the chicken pox. Anyone who has had the chicken pox is susceptible to developing shingles later in their life.

The virus can become active again when the patient is under a great deal of stress or their immune system is weakened. Although there are many stresses on the body that can be responsible for the reactivation of the virus, in most cases, the exact reason is never discovered. The most common patient of shingles or herpes zoster is over the age of sixty.

The virus that is responsible for herpes zoster is not the same herpes virus that is responsible for genital herpes or the type of herpes that affects the mouth. The patient may begin to notice some symptoms before the rash begins to develop. For some patients there is a burning or tingling feeling on their skin and the condition can be quite painful for some patients.

The rash will develop as small red blisters that may take as long as five days to fully develop. The rash will follow the path of the nerves in the body and takes on a band like shape. The blisters will fill with fluid, pop and then crust over. After the blisters have begun to crust over the healing will begin. It could take as long as four weeks for the entire process to take place. During this time, the patient can be in a significant amount of pain.

The herpes zoster is contagious for those who have not had chicken pox and will cause the chicken pox to develop in those that are exposed to it. The virus is treated with antiviral medications and some medication for pain may be needed as well. Antiviral medications can be very effective at reducing the time that it takes for the rash to heal if they are started right after the rash appears.

It is important that the patient keep the rash and affected area clean to prevent a bacterial infection that can complicate the virus. In rare cases the virus can affect the eyes if the rash appears on the face. Your health care provider should be seen if you have herpes zoster rash on your face that could affect your vision.

A common complication of herpes zoster is post herpetic neuralgia which is a consistent pain after the rash has gone away. There is currently a vaccine for patients who are over age sixty and who have had the chicken pox virus. The vaccine has been shown to reduce the incidence of shingles as well as reduce the symptoms that occur when shingles does happen.

The most important thing that you can do if you have herpes zoster is to keep the area clean and take care of yourself. The doctor will likely treat your pain and symptoms, but the rash in most cases will have to run its course. The vaccine has proven to be a great preventative medication and those who have not had the chicken pox can avoid herpes zoster by receiving the chicken pox vaccine before they contract the virus.

Ask your doctor about the herpes zoster vaccine on your next appointment if you are over the age of sixty and you have had the chicken pox virus. It may help you to relieve the symptoms if the virus does become active in your body down the road. And it might just prevent you from having an incidence of herpes zoster.

Last updated on Jun 7th, 2009 and filed under Skin Care. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed