Herpes zoster, also known as shingles or zoster, is a viral infection caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Anyone who has had chicken pox can develop herpes zoster. The virus remains dormant (inactive), in certain nerve cells of the body and when it reactivates it causes zoster. About 20% of those people who have had chicken pox will get zoster. Most people get zoster only once. The symptoms of zoster may be burning, itching, tingling or extreme sensitivity in one area of the skin usually limited to one side of the body. This may be present for 1-3 days before a red rash appears at that site. The rash soon turns into groups of blisters which can last up to 2-3 weeks.
Treatment: Zoster usually clears on its own in a few weeks and seldom recurs. Pain relievers and cool compresses are helpful in drying the blisters. If diagnosed early, oral anti-viral drugs can be prescribed to decrease both viral shedding and the duration of the skin lesions. The earlier the treatment is started the better. To learn more about Herpes Zoster please see your dermatologist.