Herpes Zoster Shingles

Herpes zoster shingles is more commonly known as simply shingles and affects around 3 in every 1000 people in the UK each year. The virus is caused by an infected nerve and the area of skin around it; the results are pain in the infected area and a rash which is irritable and itchy. Shingles will usually last four around 2-4 weeks during this time a sufferer will feel exhausted, run down and often depressed.

How do you get shingles?

Herpes zoster shingles gets its name from the herpes varicella-zoster virus (VZV) which is also responsible for chickenpox which most people will suffer from as a child. Only people that have previously suffered from chickenpox can get shingles and this is as a result of the VZV virus being in present in the nervous system.

After a person has suffered from chickenpox, the body will develop the antibodies to ensure that the person is immune from the virus. The VZV virus will remain dormant in the nervous system and usually remain that way for life. However, problems that lead to a weakening of the immune system can cause the VZV virus to become reactive, resulting in shingles.

It is not possible for anyone to catch shingles from another person; although it is possible (on rare occasions) that chickenpox can be caught from someone suffering from shingles.

Who is most at risk of developing shingles?

Herpes zoster shingles mostly affects people aged over 50 and more so over 80. No reason is known for this being the case but it is thought that a decrease in the immune system is the biggest factor.

Sufferers of HIV and AID’s are at a larger risk of developing shingles than the general population, with the possibility of getting the virus 25 times higher. Recent organ transplant patients are also of a higher risk because of the medication needed to supress the immune system in order for the body to accept a new organ. Bone marrow transplant patients are also at higher risk due to the conditioning provided prior to transplant weakening the immune system.

Young healthy adults and children are least at risk of developing shingles and those that do rarely suffer from anything other than mild symptoms.

Symptoms of shingles

Chickenpox and herpes zoster shingles are very similar in appearance and both have red spots which develop into blisters and then scab over. Unlike chickenpox, shingles generally will affect only a specific area on the right or left side of the body and usually the chest and abdomen.

Herpes zoster shingles sufferers will generally suffer a feeling of pain several days in advance of the rash appearing. Pain will begin as a burning sensation or oversensitivity of the affected area and will remain constant and dull. Sufferers may also feel stabbing pains from time to time in the affected area, once the rash appears it will generally do so as a band following the route of a nerve supply.

Should you feel any of the symptoms mentioned then it is important to seek medical attention immediately.




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