Viral Facial Skin Infections
Viral facial skin infections in the form of herpes simplex outbreaks or cold sores are caused by several subtypes of the herpes simplex virus. Shingles or herpes zoster (zoster ophthalmicus when it appears in the orbital area around the eyes) is caused by varicella zoster virus. Both types of viruses (herpes simplex subtypes and varicella zoster virus) are classified as herpes viruses.
Primary and secondary outbreaks
The viruses appear in the form of primary and secondary outbreaks.
The primary outbreak happens only once, and is associated with fever, chills and pains in the muscles and joints, like one has during influenzas, and swollen lymph glands in the neck area. Chickenpox/varicella zoster gives a generalized rash, whereas herpes simplex affects a smaller area of the skin. The vesicles burst quickly, and leaves the skin area open to secondary bacterial infections.
When the vesicles and crusts disappear, the virus is still present in the body, but withdraws into the sensory gangliae along the spine in the head and neck area.
Typical Secondary Manifestations
Secondary outbreaks happens when the victim is weakened later in life. The weakness may originate from any type of influence like diseases, overwork or other types of stress.
What is typical for secondary outbreaks of herpetic infections is that they produce clusters of small vesicles on small areas of the skin. That will be the same area that was infected during the primary infection in the case of herpes simplex. Herpes Zoster can strike anywhere.
Secondary outbreaks of herpes zoster/shingles/zoster ophthalmicus can be most painful,
but can manifest also with only minor pains. Unilateral outbreaks of clusters of
vesicles that burst quickly and leave the skin area sore and open to secondary
bacterial infections is its typical way to manifest. The skin area is soon covered
by brownish crusts, that fall off after 7-14 days.
Secondary herpetic outbreaks usually leave no scars, but some few people experience
persistent pains after an outbreak. They usually give only mild or no general feeling
of being ill.
Zoster opthalmicus is a special manifestation of herpes zoster
infection or shingles. It appears on the face near or around the eyes, and requires expert
The secondary outbreaks can be very numerous in the case of herpes simplex, but is a much rarer phenomenon in the case of herpes zoster/shingles.
Secondary outbreaks usually don't involve fevers and chills. If it does, these tend to be mild.
Pains can be severe in the case of herpes zoster, and somewhat milder in the case of herpes simplex.
Herpes Simplex (left) and Herpes Zoster (right)
How are viral facial skin infections transmitted?
Viral facial skin infections in the form of herpes simplex, herpes zoster and zoster ophthalmicus are transmitted by skin to skin contact during outbreaks, both primary and secondary.
Herpes zoster is a secondary outbreak of varicella zoster virus. It can happen when the victim has had chickenpox earlier in life, and represents a reactivation of the same virus.
During a secondary outbreak, herpetic infections are non contagious to people who have had primary infection earlier in life, but those who haven't may get chickenpox when exposed to varicella zoster virus during outbreaks of zoster ophthalmicus or shingles, and a primary herpes simplex infection when exposed to herpes simplex virus.
How are viral facial skin infections treated?
Viral facial skin infections are treated just like other skin infections, with topical and/or oral antibiotics. Herpes simplex and herpes zoster are no exceptions, only that the antibiotic is targeted on the viruses, and not on the secondary bacterial infections. Don't forget that Zoster ophthalmicus needs expert medical treatment, usually in hospital!
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