Shingles, known medically as Herpes zoster (HZ), is caused by the Varicella zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox in children. After the chickenpox infection, VZV latently persists, without symptoms, in the basal ganglia including the trigeminal ganglion. For unknown reasons, VZV is reactivated from latency, and moves along sensory nerves to the endings in the skin, where it replicates causing the characteristic HZ rash, commonly called shingles.
There is no known cure for VZV, though it can be treated with antiviral medications. Although the infection presents with a rash, commonly fairly painful, it usually subsides within three to five weeks. Unfortunately, about one in five patients develop a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is often difficult to manage. Because VZV is never eliminated, after a shingles attack, VZV again becomes latent, to attack again sometime in the future.Read More »Why we vaccinate-shingles may increase risk of stroke