Herpes zoster which is also commonly known as shingles is caused by varicella zoster virus. Varicella zoster is the one which cause chicken pox.
People who had chickenpox are at risk for herpes zoster as the virus stays dormant in nerve cells can reactivate in later life causing shingles.
People over 50 years of age and with suppressed immunity are at increased risk for herpes zoster. Most of the time shingles gets cleared in two to three weeks. You can spread the varicella zoster virus to people who’ve never had chickenpox and haven’t been vaccinated.
- Pain and burning are the first symptoms.
- Small red patches on one side of the body.
- Blisters which are filled with fluid and are easily breakable.
- Itching in the affected area.
- Herpes zoster can also cause other serious complications, including vision loss; ear pain; and inflammation of the spinal cord, which causes weakness in legs and arms and back pain.
- It can sometimes be severe enough that it disrupts sleep and makes everyday activities difficult.
Herpes zoster is diagnosed based on the symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis laboratory investigations are also done in some cases.
Treatment and Prevention:
- Antiviral drugs are the mainstay of treatment which can prevent new lesion formation, promote more rapid healing of skin lesions.
- Treatment is shown to reduce the duration of pain and accelerate the healing of the rash
- After treatment for herpes zoster has been initiated, patients should be assessed for improvement in their clinical symptoms. Management of acute neuritis is also important for patient management.
- Early treatment is also known to prevent complications.
- Conservative therapy includes non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs which can reduce pain.
- Vaccines can help to prevent severe shingles or complications due to shingles.
- All children should receive two doses of the chickenpox vaccine, also known as a varicella immunization. For adults who have never had chickenpox must take this vaccine.
- The herpes zoster vaccination done in elderly prevents zoster.
- As it is contagious, avoid people who haven’t had chickenpox till now.
- Frequent hand washing and covering the rash is one more tip to prevent the spread of shingles.
- As you are contagious until your sores are crusted over, it is advisable to avoid contact with pregnant women, newborns and people with weak immune system.
Dr. Y. Alekhya