Herpes Zoster

What are symptoms of herpes zoster?

Tingling or pain in the region of the involved nerve is the initial symptom, followed by the development of a painful rash, often with red swollen areas and blisters. When it involves the eye, the eyelids may swell and the eye may become red, irritated, painful, and light sensitive.

A 90 year old man with left sided herpes zoster
ophthalmicus in the early phase.


After several days, red the rash and vesicles begin to dry up and dark scabs form.


Same patient 5 days later.


What are the risks to the eye with herpes zoster ophthalmicus?

Vesicles similar to what form on the skin may form on the surface (cornea) of the eye. Also, inflammation inside the eye may occur leading to scarring, glaucoma, cataract, and loss of vision.

How is herpes zoster ophthalmicus treated?

Antibiotic antiviral pills are prescribed for herpes zoster. If it involves the eye, sometimes various eye drops are prescribed to treat the complications.

Is herpes zoster contagious?

No. An individual exposed to herpes zoster cannot acquire shingles, but if the exposed person has never had chicken pox or has never been vaccinated for chicken pox (such as small children), they may develop chicken pox. Pregnant women should avoid exposure as well.

Can herpes zoster be prevented?

A herpes zoster vaccine is recommended for healthy adults ≥ 60 yo, regardless of whether they have had chickenpox or herpes zoster. This vaccine decreases the chance of getting herpes zoster by half. If herpes zoster still occurs in someone who has been vaccinated, it is less severe than in someone who had not been vaccinated.