Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Symptoms & Causes

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What is herpes zoster?
Herpes zoster, or shingles, is a common viral infection of the nerves, which results in a painful rash of small blisters on a strip of skin anywhere on the body. Even after the rash is gone, the pain may continue for months.

What causes herpes zoster?

Herpes zoster is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus. After a person has had chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in certain nerves for many years.

Is herpes zoster common?

Herpes zoster is more common in people with a depressed immune system and those over the age of 50. It's quite rare in children and the symptoms are mild compared to what an adult may experience. Children most at risk for herpes zoster are those who had chicken pox during the first year of life or whose mothers had chicken pox very late during pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of herpes zoster?

The rash associated with herpes zoster most often occurs on the trunk and buttocks. It may also appear on the arms, legs or face. While symptoms may vary child to child, the most common include:

  • skin hypersensitivity in the area where the herpes zoster is to appear
  • mild rash, which appears after five days and first looks like small, red spots that turn into blisters
  • blisters, which turn yellow and dry, often leaving small, pitted scars
  • rash goes away in one to two weeks
  • rash is usually localized to one side of the body
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