Journal Article

Herpes Zoster in Older Adults

Thomas T. Yoshikawa and Kenneth Schmader

in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Published on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America

Volume 32, issue 10, pages 1481-1486
Published in print May 2001 | ISSN: 1058-4838
Published online May 2001 | e-ISSN: 1537-6591 | DOI:
Herpes Zoster in Older Adults

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  • Infectious Diseases
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Herpes zoster (HZ) strikes millions of older adults annually worldwide and disables a substantial number of them via postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). Key age-related clinical, epidemiological, and treatment features of zoster and PHN are reviewed. HZ is caused by renewed replication and spread of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) in sensory ganglia and afferent peripheral nerves in the setting of age-related, disease-related, and drug-related decline in cellular immunity to VZV. VZV-induced neuronal destruction and inflammation causes the principal problems of pain, interference with activities of daily living, and reduced quality of life in elderly patients. Recently, attempts to reduce or eliminate HZ pain have been bolstered by the findings of clinical trials that antiviral agents and corticosteroids are effective treatment for HZ and that tricyclic antidepressants, topical lidocaine, gabapentin, and opiates are effective treatment for PHN. Although these advances have helped, PHN remains a difficult condition to prevent and treat in many elderly patients.

Journal Article.  4551 words. 

Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology

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