[en] Varicella zoster virus (VZV) is responsible for a primary infection (varicella) followed by a latency, eventually resulting in herpes zoster (shingles). The replication cycle of VZV is normally interrupted after varicella. Consequently, VZV remains dormant in the organism. Reactivation occurs after viraemia, and the development of tissue alterations (skin and viscera) depends on the immunological status of the patient. Diagnosis of herpes zoster relies on clinical recognition and cytological and histological evaluations combined with immunohistochemistry and molecular biology techniques. Treatment of herpes zoster primarily relies upon antiviral drugs and incidentally on immunomodulating agents, specific immunoglobulins, antimicrobial agents, antiviral enzymes and corticosteroids. Drugs with a clinically relevant activity against varicella zoster virus infections include aciclovir, adenosine monophosphate, bromodeoxyuridine, desciclovir, fiacitabine, idoxuridine, interferon-alpha and vidarabine. Among them, aciclovir appears to be a first-line agent. Its efficacy has been well established by many clinical studies. Promising drugs for the future include famciclovir, penciclovir, valaciclovir and other molecules currently under investigation. Recent and promising improvements in antiviral drug development may increase patient compliance, cost-benefit ratios and therapeutic efficacy.