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herpes zoster,infection of a ganglion (nerve center) with severe pain and a blisterlike eruption in the area of the nerve distribution, a condition called shingles. The causative organism is varicella zoster, a common, filtrable virus that is also known to cause chicken pox. Herpes zoster usually affects persons past middle life. It most often involves the area of the upper abdomen and lower chest, but may appear along other nerve pathways including that leading to the eye; serious ocular complications can lead to blindness. The disease can be treated with antivirals, and aspirin and other analgesics are used to relieve pain. Although it is generally nonrecurrent, it can permanently damage nerves and lead to postherpetic neuralgia, whose often severe, persistent pain is more difficult to control.
(also called shingles), an acute viral infectious disease that affects the nervous system and skin. Some evidence suggests that the virus of herpes zoster causes chicken-pox in children.
The infectious process in herpes zoster can be concentrated along any nerve trunk, although the intercostal nerve trunks and the branches of the trigeminal nerve are especially susceptible to infection. Characteristically, only one side of the body is affected. Skin lesions are usually preceded by general malaise, elevated temperature, slight itching, tingling sensations, and neuralgic pain at the site of future eruptions. These symptoms are followed by the appearance of pink, edematous patches. Within three to four days after the onset of the fever, groups of nodules form on the edematous base; these quickly turn into vesicles with transparent contents. The local lymph nodes enlarge, and the pain intensifies. Within six to eight days, the vesicles dry and form yellowish brown crusts that subsequently fall away, leaving slightly pigmented spots.
Atypical forms of herpes zoster occur. Vesicular eruptions are absent in the abortive form, while the eruptions in the bullate form appear as large blisters. In hemorrhagic herpes zoster, the contents of the vesicles and blisters are bloody. Necrosis of tissue followed by scarring is symptomatic of gangrenous herpes zoster.
In the absence of complications, herpes zoster lasts from three to four weeks. Pain sometimes persists for several months. Treatment involves the use of pain relievers, vitamins, ultraviolet radiation, and antiviral agents. Alcoholic solutions of aniline dyes are topically applied; also recommended are neutral powders and zinc ointments or pastes.
I. IA. SHAKHTMEISTER