Herpes zoster ( or Shingles ) is an infection in a nerve by the virus that
causes chickenpox (varicella). It results in a skin rash with blisters and pain.
Robina 7 Day Doctors and Acupuncture recommends this video on Shingles:
Contact with someone with chickenpox may cause it,
but usually it is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus
lying dormant (oft en for many years) in the root of a
nerve in the brain or spinal cord. The dormant virus
can be stirred into activity by stress or by the loss of
natural immunity as we get older. The virus multiplies
and spreads down the nerves, causing pain in the nerve
in which it resides.
Where does it occur?
Almost any part of the body can be involved, but common
sites are the right or left side of the chest or abdomen
and the face.
What are the symptoms?
Apart from feeling unwell, sometimes with a fever, the
main symptoms are pain and a rash.
• Th is can vary from mild to severe.
• It is burning in nature, but can be knife-like.
• It precedes the rash and lasts for 1 to 4 weeks after the
blisters disappear; it can persist for several weeks.
• It always improves in time.
Groups of blisters appear in the skin that is supplied
by the nerve. They itch and become crusted. The rash
disappears after about 7 days but will leave scars or
Is it contagious?
Yes, but only mildly. Rarely, children might acquire
chicken pox after contact with someone who has herpes
zoster, but it would be very unusual to ‘catch’ herpes
zoster from another person. It is spread when the person
comes into contact with the fluid in the blisters.
What is the treatment?
Th ere is no cure for this viral infection, but you should
see a doctor without delay because proper treatment may
reduce the severity of the illness and the likelihood of
pain after the sores have healed. You should:
• Rest as much as possible.
• Take simple pain-killers, such as aspirin or paracetamol,
• Avoid overtreating the rash, which may get infected.
Calamine lotion may be soothing, but removal of the
calamine crust can be painful. A drying lotion such
as menthol in flexible collodion is better.
• Modern antiviral drugs are very effective, especially for
more severe cases, and are usually prescribed during
the first 3 days from the onset of the rash.
What is post-herpetic neuralgia?
This is the condition of sharp burning or stabbing pain
in the nerve after the rash of shingles has disappeared.
It is more common in older people and in the nerves
on the face. It can persist for months but can be treated
with special medication.
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