Herpes zoster is commonly known as shingles or Zona, is a skin affliction that affects people who have got chicken pox in the past. Herpes zoster is a viral disease having symptoms of a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body, often in a stripe. Usually the area around spinal chord and the abdomen is most commonly affected by herpes zoster rash, forming a long streak like pattern. Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of Herpes Zoster in this article.
About the virus
Herpes Zoster virus is one amongst eight herpes viruses known to infect humans. Zoster virus causes chickenpox in children and herpes zoster (shingles) in adults and rarely in children.
What is chicken pox
Chicken pox is a very contagious illness caused by primary infection with zoster virus. It starts with vesicular skin rash mainly on the body and the head rather than at the periphery. Chicken pox becomes itchy, creates raw pock marks or acne scarring which can be healed without leaving behind any scarring.
Chicken pox is airborne disease spread easily through coughing or sneezing of the affected person or through direct contact with secretions from the chicken pox rash. Person suffering from chicken pox is infectious from one to five days before the rash appears. Contagious period continues for 4 to 5 days after the appearance of the rash or until all the lesions have crusted over. It takes about 10 to 12 days for someone to develop chicken pox after coming in contact with an infected person.
Symptoms of chicken pox
- Myalgia meaning muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Pressure in head or swollen face
Malaise means feeling of being unwell in adolescents and adults. In case of children development of rash followed by fever and anorexia is the first symptom of chicken pox.
Chicken pox is more severe in adults. It is rarely fatal and more severe in adult males than in adult females or children. Chicken pox is most commonly found to later cause a shingles. Shingles is a stage which comes after an episode of chicken pox has disappeared, however the zoster virus is never eradicated completely from the body and lie dormant in the nerve cells of the body.When these dormant zoster cells reactivate the cause herpes zoster.
Zoster virus becomes latent in nerve cell bodies. Years or decades after chicken pox infection, zoster virus may break out of the nerve cell and travel down the nerves to cause viral infection of the skin in the region of the nerve endings.
Symptoms of herpes zoster
- Earliest symptoms of zoster which include headache, fever and sensations of burning pain, itching, oversensitivity or tingling, pricking, numbness of the skin.
- The burning itchy pain is followed by rash which may not be seen in some cases resulting in incorrect diagnosis.
- Most of the time Zoster in children is painless.
Generally 1or 3 days after the initial phase, a characteristic red skin rash appears. Occurrence of rashes is common on the torso, but they can also appear on the face, eyes or other parts of the body. Main cause for herpes zoster is Varicella zoster virus (VZV).
Treatment of herpes zoster
Herpes zoster is a treatable disease and can be treated by the administration of steroids and antivirus that can help prevent long-term
pain after herpes zoster, however the treatment for herpes zoster must be started within the first two days of the appearance of rash on
the body.Primary aim to take treatment is to avoid complications in shingles.
Treatment helps to reduce the severity and duration of pain by shortening the duration of shingles and reducing complications. Those who have mild to moderate pain are treated with over-the-counter analgesic.
Topical lotions containing calamine can be used on the rash or blisters to soothe the skin. Treatment also involves intake of some antiviral drugs like acyclovir, famciclovir or valacyclovir. However research has suggested that valacyclovir and famciclovir are more effective in treating an outbreak of herpes zoster shingles in comparison with acyclovir in terms of resolution of pain and acceleration of cutaneous healing. Valacyclovir and famciclovir also have increased bioavailability over acyclovir and require less frequent dosing that are formulated to fight the infection and inhibit the replication of VZV and reduce the severity and duration of herpes zoster with minimal side effects. But they do not help in preventing pain in the nerves.
This article was meant to provide information on herpes zoster symptoms and treatment. So taking the treatment for shingles at the right time under a qualified doctor’s guidance will heal the disease in time without much complication.