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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

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.

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.

[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

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.

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.

Corticosteroids used in addition to antiviral drugs in patients with Ramsay Hunt syndrome

Ramsay Hunt syndrome (also known as herpes zoster oticus) consists of weakness of the face due to infection with the varicella zoster virus.  Five cases arise per 100,000 of the population per year in the US.  It is more common among those over 60 and rare in children. Other symptoms may include severe ear pain and small blisters on the outer ear or in the mouth.  Prompt diagnosis and treatment (ideally within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms) are crucial to secure the best outcomes. In cases where treatment has been started within this time period, facial weakness recovers in up to 75% of patients. Standard treatment is with antiviral therapy (most commonly acyclovir). Corticosteroids are known for their anti‐inflammatory properties and are commonly used together with antivirals to reduce the inflammation in the facial nerve.  This is thought to be the cause of the facial weakness.  The aim of the review was to see if corticosteroids, used at the same time as antiviral drugs, improved outcomes in patients with Ramsay Hunt syndrome.  However the review found no trials matching the inclusion criteria, and no conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of using corticosteroids in this way.   It is recommended that high‐quality randomised controlled trials be undertaken to address this issue.

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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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