ID: 116
Category: Skin Condition
CreatedBy: 1
UpdatedBy: 1
createdon: 14 Jul 2017
updatedon: 04 Apr 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Jul 14, 2017
Updated Apr 04, 2023

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Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Etymology and Pronunciation

Shingles (SHING-guhls)
cingulum - Latin for "belt or girdle". It refers to the characteristic belt-like pattern of the rash that often appears in people with this condition

Herpes Zoster (HUR-peez ZOS-ter)
herpes - Greek for "to creep" or "to crawl"
zōstēr - Greek word for "belt or girdle". Same definition as the Latin counterpart for cingulum

History of Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

The earliest known description of shingles-like symptoms can be found in ancient Greek literature, where the physician Hippocrates wrote about a condition he called "herpes". The term "zoster" which means belt or girdle in Greek, was first used to describe the distinctive rash that appears on one side of the body during a shingles outbreak.

The scientific discovery of shingles is credited to the Scottish physician William Heberden, who first described the condition in a medical paper in 1767. Heberden recognized the distinctive symptoms of shingles and noted that it typically affected older adults. Over time, medical researchers learned more about the virus that causes shingles and how it spreads, leading to the development of effective treatments and preventative measures.

In the early 20th century, a Japanese researcher named Takahashi developed a live attenuated vaccine for chickenpox, which was later found to also reduce the risk of developing shingles. This vaccine was first used in Japan in the 1970s and was eventually approved for use in other countries, including the United States.

Modern Understanding of Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles is a viral infection that affects the skin and nervous system. The virus responsible for shingles is called the varicella zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once someone has had chickenpox, the virus can lay dormant in the body for years and reactivate later in life as shingles.

The most common symptom of shingles is a rash that appears on one side of the face or body. The rash starts as red, raised bumps and develops into fluid-filled blisters that crust over. Other symptoms of shingles include fever, headache, and fatigue.

Shingles results in a painful rash with blisters on one side of the body. This rash can be accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, itching, numbness, and tingling. In some cases, shingles can affect the eye, causing ophthalmic shingles and leading to vision problems. Another complication of shingles is Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which affects the face and hearing.

People who are immunocompromised or elderly are more susceptible to shingles. This is because their immune system is weaker and less able to fight off the virus. However, anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles later in life.

Doctors rarely test for shingles unless the rash by itself cannot be used to establish a diagnosis. Some persons get testing because they are more likely to experience difficulties.

Causes of Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus can remain inactive in nerve cells near the spinal cord and brain. In some people, the virus can reactivate later in life, travel along the affected nerve to the skin, and cause a painful rash known as shingles. The reason why the virus reactivates is not completely understood, but it is thought to be related to a weakening of the immune system due to aging, stress, certain medications, or other factors.

Treatments for Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Treatment for shingles may include the shingles vaccine to prevent outbreaks, antiviral medication to shorten the duration of the outbreak, pain management, and topical cream or steroids to relieve symptoms. In severe cases, a doctor may also prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection is present.

It is important to see a doctor if you suspect that you have shingles. Early treatment can help reduce the duration of the outbreak and prevent complications. Additionally, getting vaccinated against shingles can help lower your risk of developing this painful skin condition.


Patchy rash

Confirmation Tests

- Blood test
- Viral detection

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