Herpes zoster is a localized, painful, and blistering rash caused by varicella-zoster virus (VZV) reactivation. It is a double-stranded DNA virus and a member of the herpesvirales family, also known as herpesvirus three and shingles. Anyone who suffers from varicella (commonly chickenpox) can subsequently develop herpes zoster. Zoster can occur in childhood but is more common in adults and older people. Cancer patients have 40% more chances of developing zoster. Moreover, people with weak immune systems are more susceptible to developing zoster.
Symptoms of Herpes Zoster
Following are the early signs or symptoms of herpes zoster or shingles;
- Enlargement of the lymph nodes
- Fever, chills, and headache
- Raised dots and redness
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- Burning or tingling feeling in or under the skin
- Diarrhea or upset stomach
There is no specific treatment for shingles, but the remedy can lessen its complications, such as pain after the postherpetic neuralgia rash.
Risk factors of Herpes Zoster
After chickenpox, a weak immune system can wake up the virus. Likewise, you are likely to develop shingles if you are/have;
- 50 years or older
- Under stress or anxiety
- Cancer, HIV, or any other disease that weakens your body’s defense
- Serious physical injury
- Steroids or any medicines that weaken your immune system
Causes of Herpes Zoster
The primary infection of varicella remains dormant in dorsal root ganglia nerve cells in the spine for years before it reactivates and migrates down the sensory nerves to the skin to cause herpes zoster. There is no particular explanation for the effect of herpes zoster on nerve fibers. Overall, there are the following triggering factors;
- Pressure on the nerve roots
- Radiotherapy at the affected nerve root
- Spinal surgery
- Interaction with any person having herpes zoster or varicella
Complications of Herpes Zoster
The shingle complication can last long even after the rash is gone, including;
- Brain inflammation or facial paralysis
- Eye problems or vision loss
- Skin infections
- Neurological problems
- Pain after the outbreak called postherpetic neuralgia
Diagnosis of Herpes Zoster
Shingles can be diagnosed by the distribution of rash on your body. The blisters appear as a band on the side of your body. It can also be analyzed in the laboratory by swabbing or scratching the fluid in the blisters.
Treatment of Herpes Zoster
Antiviral drugs treat herpes zoster and minimize its associated risk and complications. It works best when it is taken three days after the rash. The following medicines are commonly used to fight the virus;
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
The treatment of shingles pain can be done by;
- Baths of colloidal oatmeal
- Cool compress
- Medicated lotion
- Numbing medications
- Over-the-counter drugs
- Prescribed painkillers
Generally, people can have shingles only once in their life, but it can reappear in people with weak immune systems.
Shingles are contagious that can spread the varicella-zoster virus in a population who has never experienced chickenpox and is not vaccinated. Until the sore crusted over, you are contagious. Avoid contact with pregnant women, people with weak immune systems, and newborns.
- The FDA recommended the Shingix vaccination, which is more than 90% effective in preventing and avoiding disease complications. The CDC recommends two doses of the Shingix vaccine for 18 years or older, specifically those with a weak immune system. Moreover, you can get this vaccine if you have had shingles before.