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Difference Between Shingles (Herpes Zoster) & Oral-Genital Herpes

Difference Between Shingles (Herpes Zoster) & Oral-Genital Herpes

The general public tends to get confused between the herpes zoster (shingles) and herpes simplex (oral or genital herpes) and often use them interchangeably. We believe that there are some valid reasons for this confusion because both of these diseases are pretty widespread and to the untrained eye, the symptoms may look pretty similar as well! On top of that, the relevant information that could educate ordinary folks regarding these diseases is pretty sparse, to say the least.

Is Shingles a Form of Herpes?

The short answer would be yes, however we need to elucidate this further. There are eight types of Herpes Human Virus (HHV) all of which has an effect on humans. A brief round-up of all the different variants are as follows:

  • HHV1: Also known as Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV -1) and it causes oral herpes also known as cold sores.
  • HHV2: Also known as Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV – 2) and it causes genital herpes.
  • HHV3: Also known as Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) and it causes chickenpox when people are infected with it for the first time. The symptoms can recur as shingles later on in life!
  • HHV4: Also known as Ebstein Barr Virus (EBV) and it causes mononucleosis in humans. In popular jargon this disease is also known as glandular fever or simply as mono.
  • HHV5: Also known as Cytomegolo Virus (CMV) and it effect 5 out of every 1000 live births. Children infected with this virus initially show symptoms that are very similar to rubella.
  • HHV6: Also known as Roseolovirus because it causes Roseola Infantum, which is essentially a high fever accompanied by a rash.
  • HHV7: This is very similar to HHV6, however the infections caused by this virus is usually not as severe as that caused by HHV6.
  • HHV8: Also known as Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), which is a form of cancer that people suffering from AIDS are especially susceptible to.

As mentioned above HHV has eight different variants, all of which have multiple sub-variants, a full discussion of which is beyond the scope of this article. So calling shingles a form of herpes would be technically correct, and you may even stretch the definition to say that shingles and herpes are related, however the truth of this claim is only limited to the taxonomy. The symptoms of herpes zoster are different from those of cold sores or genital herpes, the key differences of which can be deciphered if we compare them side by side.

Difference Between Shingles and Oral or Genital Herpes:

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Statistical Differences between Shingles and Herpes:

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Treatment for Shingles and Oral or Genital herpes:

People can at times be forgiven for thinking that shingles and herpes are the same if they have ever seen the prescription or the recovery methods, because they are almost carbon copies of each other. Some of the key aspects of the treatment are:

  • Taking vitamin supplements that has a significant amount of Vitamin C and Zinc provides a necessary boost to our natural immunity and prevents the onset of herpes zoster or a recurrence of herpes simplex.
  • People are usually suggested to try “over the counter” medication like ibuprofen or paracetamol to help ease the pain. Topical application of Vaseline or a similar petroleum jelly or even Aloe Vera is also highly recommended. However herpes zoster tends to be a lot more painful than herpes simplex, hence some advanced pain medication for people suffering from shingles may be required. To help ease the pain, an application of lidocaine may be prescribed. In extreme cases, prescription of opiates such as Hydrocodone (Brand Name: Vicodin) and Oxycodone (Brand Names: Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan) is not unheard of!
  • A warm bath provides patients of shingles, cold sores or genital herpes with temporary relief.
  • For both herpes zoster and herpes simplex, strong anti-viral medication is prescribed. Some example are Famciclovir (Brand Name: Famvir), Valacyclovir (Brand Name: Valtrex) and Acyclovir (Brand Name: Zovirax).
  • If the blisters or lesions get ruptured, then it leaves the patients of both shingles and herpes vulnerable to secondary infection. To counter that, flucloxacillin or erythromycin may also be prescribed.

Prevention is the best form of cure hence building up and maintaining a healthy immune system, maintaining proper hygiene and refraining from risky sexual behavior can go a long way towards preventing an outbreak!