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. It is not clear what makes the virus reactivate. A temporary weakness in immunity (the body’s ability to fight infection) may cause the virus to multiply and move along nerve fibers toward the skin. Although children can get zoster, it is more common in people over the age of 50. Illness, trauma and stress may also trigger zoster. The symptoms of zoster are 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 one to three days before a red rash appears at that site. There may also be a fever or headache. The rash soon turns into groups of blisters. The blisters generally last for two to three weeks. It is unusual to have pain without blisters, or blisters without pain. The pain is often severe enough for the physician to prescribe painkillers.

Zoster is most common on the trunk and buttocks, but it can also appear on the face, arms or legs if nerves in these areas are involved. Great care is needed if the blisters involve the eye because permanent eye damage can result. Blisters on the tip of the nose signal possible eye involvement. Complications of zoster are post-herpetic neuralgia with pain, numbness, itching and tingling, which lasts long after the rash clears. Post-herpetic neuralgia can continue after the skin has healed or can last for months or even years. It is more common in older people. The use of medication in the early stages of zoster may help prevent this complication. Zoster is much less contagious than chicken pox. Persons with zoster can transmit the virus if blisters are broken. Newborns or those with decreased immunity are at the highest risk for contracting chicken pox from someone who has zoster. Patients with zoster rarely require hospitalization. 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 skin lesions. Post-herpetic neuralgia can be treated with pain relievers, oral medications, anti-depressants and anti-seizure medicines.

Your dermatologist can determine the proper treatment for you.

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Our cosmetic dermatology clinic is located in the Memorial area of Houston, Texas. We are just off I-10 west between downtown Houston and Katy. There is plenty of free parking available at our facility.

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1201 Dairy Ashford Rd Houston, TX 77079
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