Herpes zoster is also referred to as shingles. It is caused by the same virus that produces chickenpox. It is a local infection of the skin, that occurs from a viral infection that involves the sensory nerve for that part of the body. The virus has been previously encountered and usually remains dormant, or asleep, in the nerve. For some reason, it reactivates, and forms an acute infection in the cutaneous distribution of the involved nerve. It is most common after 60 years of age. Adults who have not had chickenpox and are exposed to the virus will probably develop chickenpox. Chronically ill people and people with suppression of their immune system are at an increased risk of developing this disorder. Herpes may involve the trigeminal nerve. This nerve provides sensation to the face. When the division covering the eye is involved, the infection can lead to damage to the cornea and loss of vision.
Causes of Herpes Zoster
Herpes zoster is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. It can lie dormant in the nerve root ganglion, or cell body, until triggered by other factors. Physiological or psychological stress may be a risk factor. Impairment of the immune system also is a risk factor for developing this disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Herpes Zoster
the symptoms of herpes zoster, or shingles, tend to develop in a particular fashion. First, there is pain, tingling or hypersensitivity in the part of the skin that is later to have the infection. Usually within several days, vesicle will develop in the distribution of the pain. The vesicles will ulcerate, scab over and eventually heal. Fever may occur. The rash gradually subsides, although some permanent changes in the pigmentation of the skin can occur. Sometimes, the pain persists after the rash has subsided.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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