zoster, also known as shingles, is an infection of the skin that
shows up as a severe and often painful rash. It is caused by
reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same one that
causes chickenpox in youngsters. (After a childhood case of
chickenpox, the virus is not completely cleared by the immune
system. It remains dormant in portions of the spinal or cranial
is most common in people over 50.
By the time they reach the age of 85, about one in two
people have had an attack. People with weakened immune systems are
much more likely than healthy seniors to develop shingles and to
have a more severe case.
shingles sufferer may have other signs of illness in the days
before the skin rash appears, including
- fever or
may also feel an itch, tingling sensation or pain in the skin
where the rash eventually appears. The blisters usually are
confined to one side of the body, especially on the trunk.
zoster blisters last about five days. Until they scab over, their
contents can transmit chickenpox to anyone who is susceptible to
people who get shingles are more prone than younger people to
suffer pain under the areas of skin supplied by the infected
nerves. This condition is called postherpetic neuralgia and
frequently lasts for weeks to months. The pain may be constant or
come and go, and while it is not usually severe it can be a major
the skin clean while the rash is active is very important
treatment measure for shingles. A physician may prescribe a
special cleansing solution or recommend an antibacterial soap or
doctor may also suggest you take an antiviral drug, such as
acyclovir or famcyclovir, to help shorten the period of skin rash.
In addition, some people require analgesics to help alleviate the
you suffer from postherpetic neuralgia, a doctor may prescribe an
ointment or skin patch containing an analgesic, anesthetic or
anti-inflammatory medication. Interestingly, a low dose of certain
antidepressant or anticonvulsant medications also seems to help
alleviate the pain.