Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful skin disease that is caused by the (varicella zoster virus), which also causes chicken pox (varicella). Shingles is always a reactivation of the virus in the body. Therefore, it must be proceeded by an initial infection with chicken pox. The varicella can be reactivated by stressful situations, influenza or a weakened immune system
Varicella belong to the group of herpes viruses and can hide in the nerve cells of the body after initial infection for the rest of your life. In contrast to herpes, where there are activation episodes with blistering on the lips or the genitals, reactivation of the chicken pox virus in the form of shingles is far less common. Risk factors for reactivation are stressful situations or situations which weaken the immune system of the affected party. For example, during a bout of influenza, cancer or when taking medication that weakens the immune system.
Shingles can occur all over the body, but it is most common on the torso, back or the chest. It manifests itself as a belt- or stripe-shaped skin rash with the formation of blisters and burning or shooting nerve pain. The skin blisters pop after several days and crust over. People with shingles can infect others with chicken pox but not with shingles. The earlier that shingles is treated, the better the chances of recovery will be. If the associated symptoms occur, medical assistance must be sought.
A diagnosis can usually be made on the basis of the symptoms and the typical clinical picture of the skin rash.
The treatment depends how the shingles proceeds and how severe it is. Shingles usually heals within three to four weeks in younger people. In the case of older people and those with weakened immune systems, shingles can be complicated and lengthy. Painkillers and remedies against itching are used to treat the disease. Severe courses are also treated with antiviral medication (virostatics).