Herpes zoster: It's Time to Lead with a Change

April 2021

If you're unfamiliar with the illness, Herpes zoster is a virus that basically causes a reactivation of the chicken pox virus. You contract it from somebody who has it, and while treatment for the illness can be difficult, there are ways for you to prevent or minimize the symptoms associated with this ailment. We'll get into all of that in this blog post. 

Herpes zoster is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus--the same one responsible for causing chickenpox in children and adults alike. It's transmitted via contact with an active lesion on an infected person's skin, such as touching or kissing them and then touching your eyes without washing your hands first. It may also be transmitted via contaminated equipment and objects. 

Herpes zoster is a very common illness, affecting approximately one in three adults at some point in their lives. It can be a serious affliction, resulting in initial symptoms including fever, headaches, and back pain within two to seven days of contracting the virus. 

When the virus gets into your nervous system it causes a condition known as shingles. This reactivates the chickenpox virus within your body and causes lesions on your skin's surface (known as vesicles), often accompanied by intense pain and inflammation accompanied by nerve damage in areas where the infection has been experienced. 

In the case of shingles, the virus may not stay in one area, and it can travel around your body in a manner similar to how flu travels--from your head down through your neck and so on. 

Shingles is an incredibly painful condition, as it's often accompanied by nerve damage. The skin around the affected area may burn as well, causing blisters. Pain-killing medications can help to alleviate some of the pain associated with shingles and can be taken for up to six months after you've contracted it. Otherwise you may have to take prescription painkillers for weeks or months after contracting it. 

If you have shingles, you'll usually experience the symptoms within two to seven days of having contracted the illness. 

Treatment options can be difficult, as there are no known treatments that can eradicate the virus itself, and so it's best to prevent the infection from beginning in the first place. However, some medications can help prevent symptoms associated with chickenpox including nausea and headaches. In addition, some antibiotics will lower your risk of contracting chickenpox if you're exposed to it. 

Herpes zoster is a common, self-limiting infection caused by varicella zoster virus. It is transmitted from person to person by the release of the virus from chickenpox lesions on an infected person. It differs from herpes simplex virus in that it predominantly affects adults and causes a single, painful dermatomal eruption rather than multiple outbreaks. 

The most common location for herpes zoster is on one or more segments of the dorsal root ganglion or within peripheral nerves. Typical features of herpes zoster include sudden onset and intense pain upon rash appearance, followed by spontaneous resolution. Viral shedding may occur during this time but does not correlate with severity. 

About 10% of cases develop postherpetic neuralgia, a long-term condition in which the pain associated with the pain. About 20% of these patients experience limb weakness. The infection is typically transmitted from an infected older person. Transmission may occur through direct contact of lesions during the prodrome period or direct contact with mucous membranes (eg, eyes, mouth). The incubation period is 1 to 2 weeks. Abdominal complaints are common and often go unrecognized until a rash appears, although rashes can also appear on other body sites (eg, axilla, groin). A person with herpes zoster usually has a productive cough and sore throat and may have chills or fever soon after onset.

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