What is Herpes Zoster?
Herpes Zoster, also known as shingles, is a viral infection caused by the Varicella Zoster virus (VZV). At the time of the chicken pox infection, the immune system fight the infection and it is cleared. While the virus is cleared from the body, the information for how to make the virus is still stored in the body. That information is specifically stored in the nerve roots near the spine or in the cranial nerves. Reactivation of the infection occurs when the body begins to produce the virus and a second infection occurs. This can occur at any time after a person has had chicken pox, but tends to happen later in life, including the 60s, 70s and 80s. Reactivation often occurs in sick or stressed individuals as well.
What are the symptoms of herpes zoster?
Symptoms often begin with pain in a band-like area of the skin starting from the back and wrapping around to the side and front of the chest along rib lines. Pain is often described as sharp and stabbing. Pain may also be on the skin of the forehead and around the eye or on the face. These symptoms often start about 7 days before a rash appears in the area of the pain. The rash has small fluid filled bumps called “vesicles” that help identify it.
Herpes zoster treatment
Antiviral medication may be prescribed if identified early enough. A variety of pain treatments, including medications and steroid injections, may be used for the initial pain of herpes zoster.