What is Herpes Zoster or Shingles?

Herpes Zoster is also known as shingles. This is a painful, blistering rash that occurs from the reactivation of Chicken Pox.

What causes Shingles?

The reactivation of chicken pox (varicella zoster virus) can occur any time after being first infected with the virus.

What are the signs/symptoms of Shingles?

This rash will begin with intense pain, itching, tingling, and/or tenderness prior to any physical signs on the skin. In rare cases, the pain is not followed by the skin eruption of shingles and this is known as zoster without rash. In most cases, a painful eruption of grouped blisters develops in a linear pattern known as a “sensory dermatome,” usually on the trunk will occur. In some cases, the face, neck, scalp, or arms/legs may be involved. This rash classically will only appear on one side of the body.

Who is at risk for Shingles?

Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for herpes zoster. The pain, blisters, and complications of this rash becomes more severe with increasing age and immune compromise. The risk of getting shingles more than once is 1%.

What are the complications of Shingles?

Shingles will typically resolve without issues in children and young adults with intact immune systems. The most common complication is post-herpetic neuralgia. Post-herpetic occurs when a patient still feels the symptoms of shingles after the rash has resolved on the skin. Secondary bacterial infections can also occur. This rash can also affect the eye, ophthalmic zoster, which is a severe complication that occurs in 7% of cases with 20-70% developing associated ocular disease including blindness. Herpes zoster in immunocompromised patients may be very severe.

How is Shingles diagnosed?

This is a clinical diagnosis made by a dermatology provider.

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