Herpes zoster

What is herpes zoster

Herpes zoster is a disease caused by the reactivation of a previous infection with the herpes zoster virus, also called the varicella zoster virus or the chicken pox virus.

The clinical condition results in a painful localized skin rash that appears as vesicles and the skin around and beneath them is red.

What are the causes

The chicken pox virus (varicella zoster or VVZ) can remain latent in the body after the primary infection has passed.

Usually, the virus remains in the roots of peripheral nerves, which control the skin’s sensitivity to heat, cold, touch and pressure. In 1 in 5 people who have had chicken pox, the virus “awakens” or reactivates.

This most often happens many years and even decades after a childhood varicella zoster virus infection.

Most people who suffer from herpes zoster are over 60 years old. Upon reactivation, the virus changes its name and is referred to as herpes zoster virus.

The most characteristic feature of this viral disease is that the reactivated virus causes only one of the peripheral nerves and therefore the rash resembles a band on the skin.

The band is usually only on one side of the body and represents the dermatome – the area where the ends of the infected peripheral nerve are located. Only a part or the whole dermatome can be painful.

Most people have at least one of the risk factors for the onset of this disease. For example, anyone who had chickenpox in childhood or was given a vaccine with a live attenuated virus is at risk.

In older people /over 50 years old/, in those with oncological diseases, with organ transplants, infected with the AIDS virus or people who have a weakened immune system due to stress, there is a greater probability of chickenpox reactivation zoster virus.

What are the symptoms

Symptoms of shingles can be extremely painful and irritating. They appear depending on which peripheral nerve is affected by the reactivation of the virus.

Typically, this type of infection begins with intense tenderness or pain in a certain area of ​​the body, which resembles a band and is usually limited to one side of the body.

This overwhelming painful sensation can take many forms, including itching, tingling, burning, constant pain, or even deep, intense, and piercing pain.

Regardless of where the pain occurs, if it spreads to the face and especially around the eyes, it is important to consult a medical professional immediately. This is especially important because the infection can lead to serious ophthalmic problems and eye damage.

Severe pains are accompanied by other non-specific symptoms, such as fever, chills, headache and itching. These symptoms can appear at the same time as the pain and make the condition even more painful.

Usually within 1-3 days after the onset of pain, the characteristic rash appears. This rash usually starts as red bumps on the affected area of ​​skin. Vesicles then form on them, which fill with pus and become painful.

After a short time, crusts form on these vesicles. The process of formation of a rash and the disappearance of crusts usually lasts about 10-12 days.

In some cases, however, no rash develops, and the symptom is only pain in the area of ​​the infected peripheral nerve.

After the rash goes away, the symptoms may continue to bother you. Some patients develop a condition called neuralgia, in which pain in the area of ​​the affected peripheral nerve persists even after the rash disappears. This is a serious and unpleasant condition that can affect the quality of life of the affected persons.

So, shingles can be a very painful and irritating problem that requires careful monitoring and treatment.

Follow-up care and consultation with a doctor is critical to protecting yourself from serious complications and painful symptoms associated with shingles.

Treatment of the disease

People who have symptoms of varicella zoster virus reactivation should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Antiviral medications are only most effective when administered as soon as possible after the initial symptoms appear.

  • Do not scratch the skin in the rash area. This increases the risk of developing a secondary bacterial infection, and also increases the likelihood of scarring after the rashes disappear. Antihistamines and topical creams such as lidocaine can be used to relieve itching.

After diagnosis and appropriate treatment, you can apply cool compresses several times on day for 20 minutes to soothe the skin and dry the oozing pus or fluid from the vesicles.

This helps to remove crusts and the risk of developing a bacterial infection decreases.

You should stop applying compresses after drying the vesicles, so as not to over-dry the skin around them and thus cause itching.

Remember that fluid or pus from blisters is contagious to people who are susceptible to varicella-zoster infection.

How to protect yourself?

To protect yourself from this troublesome virus, several precautions are necessary.

First, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Consider your diet and aim to consume foods rich in vitamins and minerals.

Strengthening the immune system is key to fighting shingles. In addition, stress should be avoided as it can impair the functioning of the immune system.

Vaccination is another important step in preventing herpes zoster. A shingles vaccine called Shingrix is ​​available and recommended for people over 50. It is given as two doses and is an effective way of reducing the risk of infection.

Avoiding contact with the shortened areas of skin that change and become painful can also help prevent shingles. Direct contact with the bumps and itchy areas should be avoided, especially if you have a compromised immune system.

In conclusion, shingles is a painful and painful problem, but with proper care and vaccination, the risk of infection and subsequent complications can be reduced.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow your doctor’s instructions to protect yourself from this troublesome virus.

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