Herpes zoster (commonly referred to as “shingles”) and postherpetic neuralgia result from reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus acquired during the primary varicella infection, or chickenpox. Whereas varicella is generally a disease of childhood, herpes zoster and post-herpetic neuralgia become more common with increasing age. Factors that decrease immune function, such as human immunodeficiency virus infection, chemotherapy, malignancies and chronic corticosteroid use, may also increase the risk of developing herpes zoster. Reactivation of latent varicella-zoster virus from dorsal root ganglia is responsible for the classic dermatomal rash and pain that occur with herpes zoster. Burning pain typically precedes the rash by several days and can persist for several months after the rash resolves. With postherpetic neuralgia, a complication of herpes zoster, pain may persist well after resolution of the rash and can be highly debilitating. Herpes zoster is usually treated with orally administered acyclovir. The efficacy of early versus late treatment with acyclovir and valaciclovir on zoster-associated pain was assessed from two databases (1076 patients) that were compiled from randomized trials. Early treatment was started Herpes zoster (HZ) results from reactivation of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) in the dorsal root ganglion and is the most common sensory neurologic disease in the elderly. Although the disease can occur at any age, in the otherwise immunocompetent individual the risk of developing HZ substantially increases over the age of 50 years: it has been estimated that 50% of persons who reach the age of 85 years will have suffered at least one attack of HZ . The most troublesome symptom of HZ is pain, which occurs in most patients and, particularly in the elderly, often persists after the cutaneous manifestations of the disease have healed. Replication of VZV within the neurons causes an acute neuritis, and this, in turn, initiates changes within the central nervous system, leading to potentially chronic neuralgia. Because the nerve damage or malfunction (or both) triggered by VZV replication occurring early in acute HZ is responsible for the pathophysiology of the more persistent pain, therapy with antivirals to limit the subsequent pain of HZ must be started during the period of viral replication . Prompt presentation and diagnosis is therefore critical for effective relief of symptoms and for stopping further virus replication. This is often not achieved since most patients and their medical attendants do not recognize the prodromal pain of HZ for what it is and only present or diagnose the condition once the rash appears.
Shingles is usually diagnosed based on the history of pain on one side of your body, along with the telltale rash and blisters. Your doctor may also take a tissue scraping or culture of the blisters for examination in the laboratory. There's no cure for shingles, but prompt treatment with prescription antiviral drugs can speed healing and reduce your risk of complications. These medications include: Taking a cool bath or using cool, wet compresses on your blisters may help relieve the itching and pain. And, if possible, try to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Some people have such mild symptoms of shingles that they don't seek medical treatment. At the other extreme, severe symptoms may result in a visit to the emergency room. Valacyclovir is used to treat infections caused by certain types of viruses. In children, it is used to treat cold sores around the mouth (caused by herpes simplex) and chickenpox (caused by varicella zoster). In adults, it is used to treat shingles (caused by herpes zoster) and cold sores around the mouth. The viruses that cause these infections continue to live in the body even between outbreaks. Valacyclovir is also used to treat outbreaks of genital herpes. Valacyclovir decreases the severity and length of these outbreaks. In people with frequent outbreaks, this medication is used to reduce the number of future episodes. It helps the sores heal faster, keeps new sores from forming, and decreases pain/itching. This medication may also help reduce how long pain remains after the sores heal. Read the Patient Information Leaflet if available from your pharmacist before you start taking valacyclovir and each time you get a refill.
Valtrex, a powerful antiviral medication, won't cure shingles, but it can. The shingles virus does run its course, but it can be painful and result. Getting enough sleep, exercise, and maintaining food intake can all help the body combat illness. Frequently Asked Questions From “how long does shingles last” to “how much time will I need off work”, there are a lot of questions surrounding how to cope with a shingles diagnosis.