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Herpes zoster - Definition


Herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles, is a condition caused by the stimulation of the chickenpox virus (VZV) bringing it out of its latent state. Once it is contracted, the chickenpox lies dormant in the neural lymph nodes for life. It can be reactivated essentially in the elderly or during a period when the body is immunocompromised, and thus causes herpes zoster. This is an infection that manifests with skin lesions in the form of grouped vesicles, lying on reddened skin. These vesicles become crusted after a few days before dropping off. It is accompanied by burning pain, sometimes extremely severe. The localization of the vesicles is related to the sensory zone of a nerve, and certain forms are more frequently seen, such as herpes zoster ophthalmicus on the face, or intercostal herpes zoster affecting the chest. Medicinal drugs can alleviate the pain, while an antiviral treatment is only administered to fragile patients or in the ophthalmic cases. There can nevertheless be complications despite efficient treatment, notable persistent pain that is extremely debilitating, called postherpetic neuralgia.