What Is Herpes Zoster?

A common question — what is herpes zoster? If you have asked yourself this question, don’t worry, you are not the first and you certainly will not be the last. Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop herpes zoster. Herpes zoster is most common in older people and people who have weak immune systems caused by stress, injury, certain medicines, or other reasons. Keep reading and you will learn just what herpes zoster is.

Herpes zoster is not always called “herpes zoster.“ It is also known as shingles, or just zoster. Herpes zoster is caused by the same virus as the chickenpox. The name of that virus is Varicella Zoster virus. After a person has the chicken pox, the Varicella Zoster virus remains dormant in your body. When the virus reactivates, herpes zoster develops. Approximately 20% of people who have had the chickenpox will get herpes zoster and most will only develop it once.

What is the herpes zoster rash like? A herpes zoster rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and can last anywhere from two to four weeks. The rash is very painful and is accompanied by blisters.

Who can contract the virus? Anyone who has had the chickenpox can get herpes zoster. Anyone who is older than 50, has an auto-immune disease or another health problem or stress that weakens the immune system has a greater chance of getting herpes zoster. Don’t worry, you cannot catch herpes zoster from another person with herpes zoster. However, someone who has never had chicken pox or the chickenpox vaccine can get chickenpox from someone who has herpes zoster, but this is uncommon.

Unfortunately there is no cure for herpes zoster. But, treatment can help you get well sooner and prevent other problems. You should call your doctor as soon as you believe you may have herpes zoster — the sooner you start treatment, the better it will work.