Zoster also known as Herpes Zoster is a viral skin disease which causes bruise and rashes which are painful. This disease is also commonly known as Shingles or Zona. The virus infects only a small portion of the body and spreads on one side of the body only. It is caused by a virus known as varicella zoster virus. It is considered that this virus comes into the body along with acute short term illness or chickenpox. Once the chickenpox is cured, the virus does not leave the body but its start reacting on the skin of the body causing shingles. The virus can affect years after the initial infection. Therefore it is hard to detect the virus in the body.
The cause of this infection may be short term illness or chickenpox which brings in the varicella zoster virus. These ailments weaken the immune system of the body which will help the virus to enter the body easily. Although the pattern of the zoster virus has been studied carefully over the years and it is said that it is not always on the surface. It has the ability to become latent in the nerve cell bodies and yet it won’t cause any symptoms. There are many cases where the virus breaks out of these nerve cell bodies and travels into the nerve axons years after the patient is affected by chickenpox.
This disease is considered to be contagious and can be transmitted by either of the elements like saliva, air, cough, surfaces, blood, needles, sexual contact and blood transfusion.
The symptoms of herpes zoster are very mild and are often neglected considering them to be very normal ailments. The symptoms which are observed in the early stages of the herpes zoster are –
In the later stages of the infection one may experience immense burning sensation or have a lot of itchy feeling around the rash. The rash looks normal similar to the one which are caused due to allergy. The rash aggravates in stages. The initial stage is over mostly in 1-2 days, in some cases it may last for couple of weeks also. Then there is an evident rash in the area. The rash comes mostly on the torso but the possibility of it affecting other areas of the body is also not ruled out. After this phase the rash becomes vesicular and starts to look like a blister. In all the phases fever and malaise continue and the painful vesicles become dark as blood starts to flow in that region. Some of the rare symptoms are hearing loss and vertigo (dizziness).
There are several treatments which are carried out to cure this infection. Some of the most widely used treatments are steroids, antiviral, Analgesics and Herpes zoster ophthalmicus. The treatments allow the patient to bare the pain and limit the severity of the disease and reduce the complications caused by the infection.
If the infection in the first stage is mild or moderate, the infection can be controlled by Analgesics which can be obtained over the counter in any pharmaceutical. Severe pain can also be countered with an occasional morphine. Once the pain is controlled, for reducing the rashes one can use capsaicin cream. This cream is supposed to be used tropically.
Antivirals are advised to control the infection and curbing the virus from spreading in the body. The Antiviral drugs produce VZV replications which fight against the virus to reduce the pain and complication of the infection. Acyclovir is the standard drug which is used to treat this viral infection. For people who have relapse of this infection, five oral doses daily of acyclovir is very affective.
Though steroids are considered to be unconventional treatment in worst cases physicians often take the help of these drugs. Corticosteroid is the most common steroids which are used to treat this infection. Though it is not advisable to self prescribe these drugs. They are to be considered only after consulting a physician. If the physician prescribes for these drugs only then one can afford to have it. By far acyclovir has been proven to be affective for most of the patients.