Herpes Zoster Facts and Treatment
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Herpes Zoster Facts and Treatment

Herpes Zoster is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. This article discusses the necessary facts, and treatment procedures related to Herpes Zoster.

Herpes Zoster or Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles specifically occurs in people who have had chickenpox previously. After the occurrence of chicken pox, the varicella-zoster virus hibernates within the nerve cells of the central nervous system. Due to unknown reasons, the virus gets reactivated and travels via the nerve fibers to the skin and causes blisters, numbness, and inflammation of the affected nerve fibers along with a persistent burning sensation. The infection is mostly accompanied by fever. Often the affected area becomes extremely painful after the scabs have healed. The pain usually lasts from a few weeks to several months. This painful after-effect of shingles is known as Postherpetic neuralgia. Postherpetic neuralgia causes extreme sensitivity to touch and a persistent burning sensation. Apart from Postherpetic neuralgia, inflammation of the brain or Encephalitis is a rare complication of shingles. The varicella-zoster virus often infects the cornea of the eye, causing scarring of the cornea and reduced corneal sensitivity.

Anyone who has been exposed to the varicella-zoster virus can develop shingles. But the two high risk factors for contracting shingles are old age and poor immunity. The exact factors triggering the reactivation of the virus are not yet identified.



  • The infection often starts with severe pain and numbness in the affected area.
  • Patients often develop flu-like symptoms such as headache, chills etc.
  • The rash appears as a band of small blisters. The rash will be around either the left or right side of the body, usually from the middle of the back towards the chest.
  • The blisters are typically accompanied by high fever with swelling and tenderness of lymph nodes.
  • The blisters, usually by the fifth day, burst and turn into sores, which gradually scab over. The scabs heal within three to four weeks.



Diagnosing shingles is a simple procedure as either a small scrap from the infected blisters or an examination of the patient’s blood sample can establish the identity of the virus.



Aciclovir, an antiviral drug, is the most commonly used drug for treating shingles. However, it is advisable to administer the drug as early as possible. Aciclovir also prevents the infection from spreading.



  • The rashes over the body face high risk of getting infected by air-borne bacteria.
  • If the varicella-zoster virus affects the area near the eyes, or at the top of the nose, the patient faces the risk of impaired vision. The infection can scar the cornea, thus affecting vision.
  • In rare cases, shingles on the face can cause temporary hearing loss, facial paralysis and an impaired sense of taste.

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Comments (3)

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