Oral Ulcers: Shingles


In this article, we continue talking about the Human Herpes (HHV-3) in its reactive form which is called Shingles (Herpes Zoster.

Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

Shingles on the Chest

Shingles on the Chest


Reactivation of latent varicella‐zoster virus is by many predisposing factors, which includes:

  • Trauma
  • Radiation
  • Surgery
  • Malignancy (Lymphoma, leukemia or tumor in the dorsal root ganglion).
  • Immune suppression.

Reactivation of the latent virus (which was primary chicken pox) results in infection of the posterior root ganglion of spinal cord or extra‐medullary ganglion of the cranial nerve then spreads down the nerve fibers of the skin of the dermatomeleading to vesicular eruption , unilateral, segmental, along the Cutaneous distribution of the nerves.

Effected Nerves

shingles3C3, T5, L1, L2 and Ophtahlmtic (1st division of the trigeminal nerves) Less common the facial nerve (wither sensory or nerve)

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Clinical Features

Age: adults and old age.
Rare in children except: Child had chicken pox in the first few months of life.
Very Rare Congenital: Mother had chicken pox during early pregnancythe infant will suffer from Congenital Varicella Syndrome (Limb deformity, ocular lesion, Extensive scarring, Muscular atrophy, cerebral and psychomotor retardation).

Course: 3‐ 4 weeks.


  • 2–5days.
  • Fever, malaise, tenderness in the involved nerve.
  • Unilateral itching and neuralgic pain (burning or stabbing/ Constant, intermittent or radiating).

Skin Lesion:

  • Unilateral and liner papules or vesicles along the dermatomic distribution (skin and mucosa membrane) supplied by the affected nerve.
  • The papules or vesicles are surrounded by erythema.
  • They contain Clear fluid.
  • After a few days the clear fluid becomes purulent.
  • One week later the vesicles rupture forming a crust.
  • The Skin lesions are mixed (similar to chicken pox) papules, veiclles, pustules and crust are present together, why? because it occurs in successive waves.


  • 3–4weeks.
  • Scar formation, why? Due to 2nd infection.
  • Scars are painless and sometimes very painful to touch (Hyperalgesia). Scars are diagnositic for post herpetic neuralgia.

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Oral manifestations

  • May involve one of more branches of trigeminal nerve.
    Involvement of Opthalmic division.

    Involvement of Opthalmic division.

  • Vesiclesulcersscarring (Painful and surrounded by erythema).
  • May be bilateral lesions in Viremia.
  • Confluent and necrotic oral lesions in immune‐suppressed patients.

Effected Divisions of the Trigeminal Nerve:

  • Involvement of mandibular division.
    • Unilateral lesions.
    • Involving cheek, tongue, vestibule of lower jaw and Cutaneous lesions extending from the chin to the vertex.
  • Involvement of Maxillary division.
    • Unilateral lesion.
    • Involving hard palate, soft palate, vestibule of upper jaw, skin of cheek and sides of the nose.
  • Involvement of Opthalmic division (most common).
    • Unilateral lesion.
    • Involving cornea, forehead and eyelid
    • Most common (15 – 20 times more than the mandibular division).

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Identical to herpes simplex viral infection.



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  • Case history (Fever, Prodrome…etc).
  • Clinical examination (vesicles and ulcers = Unilateral, along nerve course, painful).
  • Special investigation (same as herpes Simplex)


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Healthy Patients:

  • Mild Clinical Manifestations:
    • Sedation.
    • Avoid 2nd infection by proper hygiene (0.2% chlorhexidine mouth wash or Rifampicin elixir mouth bath) 4 times daily.
    • 5% Acyclovir ointment for skin and eye lesions.
    • Topical capsaicin (hot peppers), why?Topical anaethesia aren’t effective since pain arise from the sensory nerve.
  • Sever Clinical Manifestations: 800 mg acyclovir tablets 5 times daily for 7 – 10 days

Disseminated herpes zoster and immune suppressed patients: 

  • IV acyclovir 10 mg/kg every 8 hours for 10 days

Eldery patients:

  • Acyclovir
  • Prednisone 40 – 60 mg/ day Decrease over 3 weeks to prevent post‐herpetic neuralgia

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About Author

Dr. Mohsen Saeed Ozaibi

A Dentist, Professional Blogger and Owner on OziDent.com. Graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor Degree in Dental Science from Misr International University. A Pioneer in Digital Dental Content Publishing.

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