Herpes zoster shingles is caused by the same virus that causes outbreaks of chicken pox, typically in children and young adults. A person who contracted chicken pox at any stage still has the herpes zoster virus lying dormant within particular nerve cells.
Around 80% of people who have had chicken pox will however never have an outbreak of herpes zoster. Most of the remaining that do will only develop it once. Particular populations at risk of an active herpes zoster outbreak include children, people over 40 and those susceptible who have a weakened immune system due to illness or stress.
Herpes zoster can be contracted by skin-to-skin contact on open blisters or sores, therefore it is particularly important to keep infected skin clean, covered loosely and to stay away from places such as hospitals and schools. If infection were to carry, the first outbreak seen would again be chicken pox, with the risk of herpes zoster and sores to follow later.
Herpes zoster treatment is through a range of drugs already in the marketplace that include variations of acyclovir, valtrex and Valaciclovir. These drugs include generic varieties and work to contain the virus and reduce the amount of blisters, sores and itching that occurs.
Herpes zoster is characterized by a rash that generally occurs along one side of the body, before developing into blisters that may last up to three weeks. These blisters are painful, and treatment may include painkillers and a sustained dose of medication.
Herpes zoster should be initially diagnosed by your local personal physician before medication is taken. This will involve a visit to a dermatologist who will take samples of skin from around the infection and will confirm the diagnosis.
Herpes zoster differs from other types of herpes such as genital herpes in that the virus itself is a different variety. A symptomatic patient who has herpes zoster may not necessarily have genital herpes, and vice-versa, unless they were contracted separately. Herpes zoster most commonly occurs on the torso, though also elsewhere, while genital herpes is confined to the genitals and anus, pubis and the location the virus entered the body. Similarly, oral and ocular herpes are located on the lips and eyes respectively. Always consult a doctor if you are unsure.
Treatment for Herpes zoster should involve periods of bed rest and “taking it easy”. Stress and illness will exacerbate symptoms and make recovery a longer process. Herpes zoster shingles is not fun, but as always you should take the advise of your local doctor and recovery should be fast and easy.