Herpes zoster: cos'è, sintomi e come si manifest

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Elia Tabuenca García
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Shingles, known as shingles, is a particularly annoying and painful infectious disease that affects adults and the elderly

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Shingles, commonly known as shingles, is a particularly annoying and painful infectious pathology that mainly affects adults and the elderly. But exactly what it is and which ones symptoms behaves?

As children we almost all contract chickenpox, this exanthematous disease is caused by the same virus (Virus Varicella-Zoster) which then, in adulthood, can cause herpes zoster to appear. But why does this happen? It's simple: the virus is sedated and defeated by the immune system for the first time when chickenpox occurs, but in reality it has not been completely eradicated and therefore remains latent within the body. At some point in life, for example in conjunction with a period in which the body's defenses are lower, VZV infection can rekindle and cause shingles.


Basically, after a first contact with the virus, our body develops defenses in the form of specific antibodies that are able to keep it at bay (it has not disappeared but remains silent). But there are gods risk factors that can lead to viral reactivation, in particular:

  • Lowering of immune defenses
  • Old age
  • Presence of autoimmune diseases
  • Prolonged use of some medications
  • Forte stress
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy



Shingles is a condition that can be particularly annoying and painful. The classic symptoms, in fact, include some skin rashes and red spots which in a short time become watery blisters or blisters and subsequently in scabs. Erythema that usually appears on the body (more often in the ribs) it's painful, it burns and itches. Once healed, nothing is generally felt, however there are cases in which the pain persists for months.

Other symptoms of shingles that can appear are fever, chills, abdominal pain, general malaise, headache and stomach pain.
Shingles can also affect the face (in this case it is called ophthalmic herpes zoster), it is a more serious but fortunately less frequent situation that requires immediate medical attention.

Summarizing the symptoms of shingles that can appear (even not all together) are:

  • Red spots that develop into blisters with pus
  • Pain
  • Burning
  • itch
  • General malaise
  • Temperature
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache


Shingles can initially manifest itself with a sensation of pain on some points of the body that cannot be understood as the cause. Only after about a couple of days do the real spots appear that cause the symptoms to reconnect with this disease.

In the prodromal phase of shingles there is therefore pain, redness of some areas of the body and a tingling sensation and only later do the red spots appear which evolve after about 5 days into vesicles, bubbles with pus and finally crusts. This is the phase of the disease in which it is most contagious, in fact only once the scabs have dried, the virus is no longer transmissible.

Generally it takes about 10 days to heal from the injuriesi although a complete resolution can take up to a month. Unfortunately, shingles can reactivate more than once in a lifetime and leave small scars or spots on the affected areas of the skin.


Herpes zoster therefore manifests itself substantially in two phases:

  • Prodormic phase: body pain, redness, possible fever and malaise appear
  • Outbreak of the disease: red spots are seen in some areas of the body (usually on the trunk) which evolve into blisters and blisters with painful and itchy pus


As for treatment, about shingles it acts above all to soothe the often very acute pain with anti-inflammatory or analgesic medicines. They are also often recommended antiviral drugs which must be administered already at the first symptoms to make the disease less aggressive. It is also very important to keep the lesions clean by avoiding contact with clothes as much as possible.


Do you know why shingles is popularly called shingles? The reason is that Sant'Antonio Abate is considered the protector of fire and precisely this sensation of excessive heat, burning as well as itching are the typical characteristics of those who see the reappearance of the ancient chickenpox virus.

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