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Herpes Varicella-Zoster infection

Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella virus, and therefore appears only in people who have previously had varicella. It develops in 20% of healthy adults and can appear at any time. The reactivation of the varicella virus may be spontaneous, or brought on by stress, fever, radiotherapy, low defences (immunosuppression), etc.

Shingles usually affects adults, mainly those over the age 50. However, it is common in young people who have suffered a varicella infection in the first year of life.

It normally begins with severe pain, itching and/or burning associated with changes in the sensitivity of the body area affected (pins and needles, increased sensitivity, etc.). In most cases, after a few days a rash of small blisters (vesicles) appears, grouped on a reddish plaque, as starts as a band or patch that follows the path of the nerve (usually appearing on the torso). When the vesicles dry up they form a scab.

Diagnosis is based on clinical history and physical examination.