Herpes zoster (or simply zoster), commonly known as shingles, is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters developing in the territory served by the afflicted nerve, giving the limited involved area a stripe-like appearance.
The initial infection with varicella zoster virus (VZV) causes the acute, short-lived illness chickenpox which generally occurs in children and young adults. Once an episode of chickenpox has resolved, the virus is not eliminated from the body but can go on to lodge in a nerve root where it stays dormant for years. During episodes of bodily stress (both physical and mental) the defense mechanisms of the body are weakened, allowing the virus to resurface and wreak havoc (burning, throbbing, extreme tenderness) often many years after the initial infection.
A series of medications and interventions are frequently effective in minimizing and eventually resolving these severe symptoms, although occasionally there are recurrences.