What is Herpes Zoster?
What is Herpes Zoster? Herpes zoster is an infection of the nerves and surrounding skin. This disease is caused by a virus similar to the virus that causes chicken pox, namely varicella zoster. Varicella viruses that settle around the spine or the base of the skull bones of the body even after the chickenpox heals, can re-activate later in life and cause herpes zoster.
Symptoms of Herpes Zoster
When experiencing herpes zoster, the first symptom is pain. The pain can be a burning sensation or a piercing sharpness. In addition, sometimes itching and numbness appear on the affected part.
The rash will then appear and turn into a scalded, water-filled scald that resembles a chicken pox. The blisters will then dry and turn into scabs within a few days.
Symptoms of herpes zoster only appear on one side of the body in accordance with the infected nerve.
In addition, the initial symptoms of the disease can sometimes vary. A small percentage of sufferers experience pain but without a rash. Here are the other symptoms that may accompany the main symptoms:
- Sensitive to light.
- Fatigue and malaise.
Herpes zoster is generally not a disease that is classified as serious or fatal and will heal itself after 14-28 days. However, you should immediately contact a doctor if you feel the symptoms and clinical signs above, especially if you have chickenpox. Handling as early as possible will reduce the risk of complications.
Risk Factors Herpes Zoster
The reason behind the active varicella virus is not yet known for certain. However, there are a number of factors that allegedly affected him. These risk factors include:
- Age. The incidence of this disease increases with the increasing age of patients, generally experienced patients aged over 50 years.
- A declining immune system, such as HIV / AIDS, using long-term steroid drugs or immunosuppressants, or undergoing chemotherapy.
- Experiencing stress both physically and emotionally.
Herpes zoster is not contagious. But if you have never had chicken pox and have direct contact with herpes zoster, you can get infected with varicella zoster virus and get chicken pox.
People with herpes zoster should also avoid contact with newborns, pregnant women, and people who have weakened immune systems.
Diagnosis and Treatment Steps of Herpes Zoster
The diagnosis of herpes zoster is usually done by examining the location and shape of the rash, as well as the pain and other symptoms that are felt. Your doctor may take a skin rash or fluid sample from a rash which will then be examined in the laboratory if needed.
Just like chicken pox, there is no special step to deal with herpes zoster. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms until the disease heal by itself.
Steps of medical treatment that can be done to speed healing while reducing the risk of complications is with the provision of antiviral drugs. For example, acyclovir and Valacyclovir. Antiviral drugs are most effective if taken within three days after the rash appears. However, if the patient has a compliant risk, the drug may be administered before 7 days after the rash appears. Consumption of antiviral drugs is usually performed for 7-10 days.
The group of people who specifically require antiviral drugs include the elderly and people with decreased immune systems, such as those with cancer, HIV, and diabetes. In addition, antiviral is also given to people with rash or severe pain and if herpes zoster impact on the eyes.
Dealing with pain as early as possible may also prevent people from complications of neurological disorders. To overcome the pain, there are several types of drugs that will usually be given a doctor. Among others are:
- Painkillers, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and kodein.
- Tricyclic antidepressant drugs (TCA), eg amitriptyline, imipramine, and nortriptyline. Doctors will usually increase the dose of this drug slowly until the pain can be overcome.
- Anticonvulsant drugs, eg gabapentin and pregabalin.
Anticonvulsant drugs and antidepressants generally take several weeks until their effectiveness can be felt.
In addition to medications, you can also take simple steps to reduce the symptoms you are experiencing, for example:
- Wearing loose and soft clothing like cotton.
- Close the rash to keep it clean and dry to reduce irritation and risk of infection.
- Avoid the use of plaster or anything made of adhesive to avoid adding irritation.
If the rash feels itchy, you can use a calamine lotion to reduce it. But avoid the use of antibiotics smeared because it can slow the healing process. While watery blisters can be treated and cleaned using cold water compresses.
Herpes Zoster Prevention Method
The main prevention measure that can be done to reduce the risk of herpes zoster is to receive herpes zoster vaccine. Herpes zoster vaccine is recommended to be given at age above 50 years. Vaccines can also be given to people who have had herpes zoster to prevent recurrence. Although not preventing full herpes zoster, this vaccination can at least reduce the severity of symptoms of this disease and the patient will recover faster.
You can also prevent transmission of herpes zoster in a simple way of not borrowing personal belongings (such as towels or clothes).
Herpes Zoster Complications
If left untreated, herpes zoster can cause some serious complications that include:
- Post-herpes neuralgia or postherpetic neuralgia. This severe pain can last for months or even years after the rash heals.It is estimated that only a small percentage of people with herpes zoster over the age of 50 years who experience this complication.
- Blindness. If it appears around the eyes, herpes zoster can lead to inflammation of the eye nerve, glaucoma, and even lead to blindness.
- Nerve disorders, such as inflammation of the brain, hearing problems, or even the balance of the body.
- Bacterial infections of the rash or blisters if hygiene is not kept clean.
- White patches on rash marks. Herpes zoster rash can cause skin pigment damage and look like a scar.