Physicians sometimes misdiagnose recurrent zosteriform herpes simplex virus (HSV) skin infections as “zoster” or “recurrent zoster.” Misdiagnosis can lead to inappropriate therapy with potentially harmful consequences, particularly in patients with ophthalmitis or immunosuppression, in which early institution of the correct antiviral therapy may be crucial. We report three patients who were originally misdiagnosed to have recurrent herpes zoster skin infections before we cultured HSV from their vesicles. We suggest: (1) that most recurrent zosteriform eruptions are caused by HSV; (2) that “recurrent zoster” has yet to be documented; and (3) that the diagnosis of “recurrent zoster” be reserved for those patients who have laboratory confirmation of recurrent varicella zoster (VZ). Viral culture or examintion of vesicle contents by indirect immunofluorescent technic can provide definitive diagnosis of the etiology of a zosteriform eruption.
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