Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

What is herpes zoster?


Herpes zoster is a disorder caused by a virus that affects the skin with a characteristic rash consisted of small bubbles full of fluid that end up as scabs and may leave permanent scars.

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What causes herpes zoster?


The varicella zoster virus that causes chicken pox is also responsible for herpes zoster. After remaining for years in dormant condition, the virus is reactivated, usually affecting the elderly or people with reduced immune reactions.

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What causes its symptoms?


The first symptom is usually an acute pain or itch in the affected area. Redness of the skin follows and, subsequently, there appear a few or many of the characteristic bubbles. Their spread follows the course of the affected nerve.

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The pain is usually very intense and is accompanied by a burning sensation, swelling and very sensitive skin. The rash will last about 3-6 weeks but many people feel pain for months or even years later. This protracted situation is called “postherpetic neuralgia”.

How does the virus of herpes zoster affects the eye?


Herpes zoster usually affects nerves around the eye, especially the nerve that is distributed in the upper eyelid and the forehead. If the virus affects the nerves that directly feed the eyeball, it may cause serious eye problems, like corneal ulcer, intraocular inflammation and glaucoma. These problems may appear at the same time with the rash or after weeks after the bubbles have receded. Constant pain is the result of the injuries of the nerves, which might stay sensitive for years after infection.

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What is the treatment for herpes zoster?


The usual procedure is to alleviate pain and prevent further infection of the skin with moist compresses, rubbing of the scabs and other measures. Antiviral drugs, steroids taken orally or other medication may help in some cases. If the eyeball is infected, drops, ointment or orally taken medication might be needed. Most people recover without complications. Unfortunately, however, despite existing medication, there are some with permanent eye damage due to the disease and continue to feel pain after the rash has subsided.

Remember:our ophthalmologist is the best source for responsible answers on issues related to your eyes and their health. Under no circumstances is information taken from our website intended to replace him. Seek your doctor for complete information.




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