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Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

A painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body (left or right), often in a stripe.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: Wikipedia)

About Shingles

Anyone who has already had chicken pox is at risk of developing shingles later on in life. Both are caused by the same virus, the varicella-zoster virus. This virus stays dormant in the body after a chicken pox infection, but can become active again years later and trigger shingles (also called herpes zoster). It causes an often very painful rash with blisters that usually forms a band across the skin, but normally only affects one side of the body.

It is still possible for people who have been vaccinated against chicken pox to get shingles. But it is estimated that this is not as common as developing it after you have had chicken pox.

Shingles is quite common in older people especially. It can be very unpleasant, but is usually over in about two to four weeks as long as there are no complications... Read more about Herpes Zoster

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Vaccines for preventing herpes zoster (shingles) in older adults

There is a vaccine to prevent shingles. Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine to prevent shingles in healthy older people.

Valacyclovir compared with acyclovir for the treatment of herpes zoster ophthalmicus in people with an otherwise normal immune system

The aim of this Cochrane Review was to find out if valacyclovir performs better than acyclovir in the treatment of a painful itchy rash caused by the chickenpox virus (herpes zoster ophthalmicus). Cochrane researchers collected and analysed all relevant studies to answer this question and found one study.

[Evaluation of vaccine to prevent herpes zoster in adults: a systematic review of the literature]

Bibliographic details: Ruiz-Aragon J, Garcia-Cenoz M, Marquez-Pelaez S, Navarro Palenzuela C.  [Evaluation of vaccine to prevent herpes zoster in adults: a systematic review of the literature]. [Evaluacion de la vacuna para la prevencion del herpes zoster en adultos: revision sistematica de la literatura.] Vacunas 2014; 15(1-2): 13-20

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Summaries for consumers

Vaccines for preventing herpes zoster (shingles) in older adults

There is a vaccine to prevent shingles. Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine to prevent shingles in healthy older people.

Valacyclovir compared with acyclovir for the treatment of herpes zoster ophthalmicus in people with an otherwise normal immune system

The aim of this Cochrane Review was to find out if valacyclovir performs better than acyclovir in the treatment of a painful itchy rash caused by the chickenpox virus (herpes zoster ophthalmicus). Cochrane researchers collected and analysed all relevant studies to answer this question and found one study.

Uncertainty about usefulness of antiviral drugs in Ramsay Hunt syndrome

It seems logical that antiviral drugs might help patients with a herpes virus infection of the ear producing facial weakness (a condition known as 'Ramsay Hunt syndrome'). These drugs often help similar viral infections elsewhere in the body. However, trials that might address this issue have not been done and there is therefore some uncertainty about their usefulness. Since patients can experience side‐effects when taking these drugs, the risks of these have to be balanced with the unknown prospect of benefit when considering whether to use them in Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

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More about Herpes Zoster

Photo of an adult

Also called: Herpes-zoster, Zoster

See Also: Varicella, Postherpetic Neuralgia

Other terms to know:
Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), Viruses

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