How do I know if I have shingles?

Patient

Q: How do I know if I have shingles? I have dry patch of painful skin on my bra line.

Doctor

A:   Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, results from reactivation of endogenous latent Varicella-zoster virus infection within the sensory ganglia. This clinical form of the disease is characterized by a painful, one sided vesicular eruption, which usually occurs in the part supplied by the affected nerve. Shingles is typically characterized in immunocompetent individuals by a unilateral vesicular eruption with a well-defined dermatomal distribution. The diagnosis is usually established based solely on the clinical presentation. Diagnostic techniques include viral culture, direct immunofluorescence testing, and the polymerase chain reaction assay, which is the most sensitive test.

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