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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007 Dec;57(6 Suppl):S130-5.

Herpes zoster: epidemiology, natural history, and common complications.

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Clinical Research Center, Department of Dermatology, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10025, USA.


Herpes zoster is a disease associated with aging that can significantly impair quality of life for affected individuals. Anyone infected with varicella (chickenpox) virus in childhood is at risk for reactivation of dormant virus and the onset of zoster disease, although it occurs with increasing frequency in the elderly as a result of waning of cell-mediated immunity. The most common complication of herpes zoster is postherpetic neuralgia, which can cause chronic and debilitating pain. Current treatments can decrease the severity of zoster rash and pain but cannot prevent disease onset or completely eliminate the most frequent symptoms. The zoster vaccine may help prevent the onset of herpes zoster in the target population of those age 60 years and older. This summary reviews the epidemiology, pathogenesis, natural history, and common symptoms of zoster disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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