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Definition of Herpes zoster

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Herpes zoster: Also called shingles, zona, and zoster. The culprit is the varicella-zoster virus. Primary infection with this virus causes chickenpox (varicella). At this time the virus infects nerves (namely, the dorsal root ganglia) where it remains latent (lies low) for years. It can then be reactivated to cause shingles with blisters over the distribution of the affected nerve accompanied by often intense pain and itching. Herpes zoster is more frequent with increasing age. Vaccination against Herpes zoster is recommended for all adults age 60 and older to prevent or decrease the severity of future episodes of this painful condition.

Reviewed on 12/12/2018

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