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Does Stress Cause Shingles To Flare Up

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Shingles

What is Shingles?

Often the first shingles symptoms happen in the area where the rash will appear. A person may have tingling, itching, or pain in this area. When the rash shows up, the pain may be mild or severe.

The rash starts as groups of tiny pimples on one side of the body or the face. It’s often in the shape of a band or belt. The pimples change to pus-filled blisters that break open and scab over in about 710 days. The scabs usually heal and fall off about 24 weeks after the rash starts.

Some kids with shingles also may have a fever and a headache, and might feel tired and achy. Rarely, a child has the pain of shingles without the rash. More severe symptoms can happen, but usually in people over age 50.

Does Stress Literally Cause Shingles

The quick but incomplete answer is no. Shingles is caused by a virusthe varicella zoster virus that, before a vaccine became widely available in 1995, caused chicken pox mainly in children up to 12 years of age. At the conclusion of the disease phase of chicken pox, VZV retreats to the central nervous system , and like a hibernating bear in a cave, goes dormant. The problem is that decades later, the virus can wake up and reemerge along nerve pathways, erupting in painful, itchy blisters and, for some, complications including herpes zoster opthalmicus and postherpetic neuralgia , which is potentially debilitating pain along the same pathways that can last for months, and sometimes years, after the rash retreats. About 1 million Americans develop shingles every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control , or 1 in 3 adults over 50, when risk begins to climb dramatically.

The reason the virus becomes empowered to charge back with such a vengeance later in life has to do with a decline in the bodys immune response to bacteria, viruses, and fungi that naturally lowers with age. This weakened defense is where experts see a potential relationship between the bodys response to stressof all kinds, physical and emotionaland how our inner chemistry can affect the immune function from keeping VZV at bay.

While The Science Hasn’t Proven A Direct Casual Link There Is Some Kind Of Stress

by Health Writer

One could easily say that shinglesthe painful, blistering reemergence of the virus that gave you chicken pox when you were a kidis itself a very stressful situation. And, to make matters trickier, its possible that some particularly anxiety-producing experience preceded the outbreak, triggering the rash in the first place. What have researchers learned about the stress-shingles connection, and what do physicians who treat it have to say on the subject? Relax as much as you canand read on.

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First What Causes Shingles

If youve had chickenpox as a child, you may develop shingles later on in life. However, very rarely people who have not had chickenpox before have developed shingles. Even after you have overcome the chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in your bodys nerve cells. Shingles occur when the chickenpox virus called varicella zoster virus reactivates, causing a painful rash of blisters to appear. Shingles typically last anywhere from two to six weeks. Typically, the first symptom of shingles is a burning sensation or tingling pain that occurs on one side of the body in a band-like pattern. You may also feel itching and severe pain from even the lightest touch.

As you get older, your risk of developing shingles increases. The majority of people who develop shingles are 50 and older. As we age, our immune systems become less effective at defending us against bacterial, fungi and viral infections, making us more susceptible to the shingles virus.

Can This Painful Rash Be Triggered By Stress

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When it comes to shingles, theres no surefire way to prevent a flare-up of the painful skin rash. But managing day-to-day stress may help.

Herpes zoster, known as shingles, is caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus the same virus that causes chickenpox. And it usually occurs after or is triggered by some sort of stressor, said Dr. Kevin Koo, a family medicine physician at Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill.

A weakened immune system in general can lead to reactivation of the virus, which then causes the shingles rash to form, Dr. Koo said. Stress or trauma leads to elevated cortisol levels in the body, a hormone that then decreases the optimal functioning of the immune system, which is keeping the virus at bay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in three adults nationwide will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime. The condition can affect any age and demographic, though people who are immunocompromised or over 50 years old are most at risk.

Pain, tingling and itching are usually the first signs of shingles, indicating the virus is attacking a specific nerve or group of nerves, Dr. Koo said. A rash will follow, appearing as small, red, fluid-filled domes or blisters on one side of the face or body.

Symptoms can also include fever, headache, chills and an upset stomach.

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Can You Get Shingles If You Havent Had Chickenpox

No. You cant get shingles if youve never had chickenpox, but you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If youve never had chickenpox and you come into direct contact with the oozing, blister-like rash of someone with shingles, the varicella-zoster virus can infect you and you would develop chickenpox.

Once youve had chickenpox, you could develop shingles at some point in your life. This is because the varicella-zoster virus never fully goes away after youve had chickenpox. It lies quietly inactive in your nerve tissue. Later in life, the virus may become active again and appears as shingles.

Can you get chickenpox more than once?

Its rare to get chickenpox twice in your life. Once youve had chickenpox, youre usually immune to it for the rest of your life. However, its not totally impossible. If you have a severely weakened immune system , you can get chickenpox a second time. If youve had chickenpox, you are more likely to get shingles at some point in your life than a repeat bout of chickenpox.

What Are Risk Factors For Shingles

A weakened immune system might wake up the virus. After youâve had chickenpox, youâre more likely to get shingles if you:

  • Are 50 or older
  • Are under a lot of stress
  • Have cancer, HIV, or another disease that lowers your bodyâs defenses
  • Have had a serious physical injury
  • Take long-term steroids or other medicines that can weaken your immune system

But many people who get shingles donât fit into any of these categories.

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What Can You Do To Avoid Stress

Reducing or eliminating stress from your life may not guarantee that you wont get shingles, but it will make you healthier. Experimenting with different techniques for stress can help you find what works for you. Try these techniques to reduce stress:

  • Identify and avoid the things that trigger your stress. Consider keeping a journal of your moods and possible triggers.
  • Wind down before sleep. Reading a book, turning off the computer, and creating a bedtime routine may help.
  • Turn mealtimes into social rituals with people you like, complete with conversation, soft music, and healthy, well-prepared food.
  • Spend time with your pet or someone elses pet if you like animals.
  • Turn off your phone.
  • Spend time in nature or taking quiet walks in peaceful surroundings.
  • Practice meditation.

Who Should Be Vaccinated With Shingrix

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The Shingrix vaccine is recommended for those 50 years of age and older who are in good health.

You should get the Shingrix vaccine even if:

  • Youve had shingles already.
  • Youve been previously vaccinated with Zostavax . If youve been vaccinated with Zostavax, wait at least eight weeks before getting vaccinated with Shingrix.
  • You dont know for sure if youve ever had chickenpox.

Ask your healthcare provider, who knows your entire health history if getting this vaccine is right for you.

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Can You Get Shingles From The Covid

There have been a few reports of shingles happening in people who were vaccinated against COVID-19. The varicella-zoster virus was reactivated in these people.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If youve had chickenpox, youre at risk of developing shingles later in life. Shingles causes a rash that is contagious and painful. The disease can have serious complications. The best thing you can do to reduce your risk is to get the shingles vaccine. The vaccines are safe and effective.

What Problems Can Happen

Most cases of shingles heal on their own, with or without treatment, and won’t lead to any other problems. In rare cases, shingles can lead to complications, including:

  • Ongoing pain : Damaged nerve fibers in the skin send confused messages to the brain, leading to pain. Pain can go on for a long time after the shingles rash is gone. This is the most common shingles complication.
  • Vision problems: Shingles near or in an eye can lead to vision loss.
  • Skin infections: A shingles rash can become infected with bacteria, leading to impetigo or cellulitis.
  • Nervous system problems: Shingles on the face can involve different nerves that connect to the brain. This can lead to nerve-related problems such as facial paralysis, hearing problems, and problems with balance. In very rare cases, shingles can lead to encephalitis .

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How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Treated

Treatments include lotions or creams and/or other medications not specifically used for pain, such as antidepressants or drugs for epilepsy. Regular pain relievers are not usually effective for this type of pain.

If your pain doesnt lessen, you might try therapies like nerve blocks or steroid injections near the area where the nerves exit the spine. Your provider might suggest an implantable nerve stimulator device for severe, ongoing pain that hasnt responded to other treatments.

Talking With A Doctor


Its important to talk with your doctor if you have symptoms of shingles or PHN. Your doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan that can help to address your symptoms.

Antiviral medications can help to treat shingles. When these are started shortly after symptoms appear, they can reduce your symptoms and the duration of your illness.

There are also several types of medications that may help with PHN pain. Some examples include tricyclic antidepressants , antiseizure drugs, and topical pain medications.

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Can Stress Trigger Shingles

Medically reviewed in December 2021

Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus , the same virus that causes chickenpox.

After chickenpox has resolved, this virus remains in the body but stops causing symptoms. Years lateroften many years laterthe virus can become active again, causing shingles.

Here, we look at one of the factors that may contribute to the reactivation of VZVstress.

The stress and shingles connection Some studies suggest that people under significant stress are more prone to a shingles outbreak. Some preliminary research even suggests that stress can cause a shingles outbreak in some people.

Whats the reason for this? Although more research is needed regarding the relationship between stress and shingles, it is known that stress can have a negative impact on the body, including the immune system.

Stressespecially severe or long-term stresshas been linked to a wide range of health issues including gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and more. While some stress in life is inevitable, there are ways to reduce or better manage stress. These include:

Medically reviewed in December 2021.

Stress And Shingles Mind And Body Are One

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states…Read More

There is probably no more painful an experience than to be stricken with shingles. Shingles is also known as the Herpes Zoster virus. Anyone who has had chicken pox is in danger of developing shingles. Essentially, Chicken Pox is known as Varicella-Zoster virus. It never really leaves the system, lying dormant waiting for some trigger to set it off in the form of shingles. Shingles can attack any part of the body. It appears as a rash that irritates the nerves and that is what makes it so painful. It can range in seriousness from being mild and attacking a very small part of the body all the way to being severe even threatening eyesight if it occurs near the eyes.

If anything, shingles is a harsh reminder that mind and body are not separate. This is how it works:

Its important that people adopt methods of living that reduce the impact of stress. For example, physical exercise, meditation, yoga, eating healthfully and living a life that balances work and leisure, can all mitigate the negative impact of stress.

If you even suspect that you might have shingles see your doctor right away. The symptoms include, itching, burning and rash on your skin. Some people even develop a fever. I know, I have had the illness. It can be serious so do not wait to see your doctor.

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What Is The Outlook For People With Recurring Shingles

Shingles usually clears up within two to six weeks.

In a small number of cases, the pain can remain once the rash has healed. This is called postherpetic neuralgia . Up to 2 percent of people who get shingles have PHN for five years or more. The risk increases with age.

Recurring shingles isnt preventable. You can reduce your risk by getting the shingles vaccine, even after youve had shingles.

A showed that people who had the shingles vaccine had 51 percent fewer cases of shingles. For people 50-59 years old, the shingles vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by 69.8 percent.

People who received the shingles vaccine generally had less severe cases of shingles. They also had

Shingles Or Something Else

Shingles Vaccine-Mayo Clinic

Small blisters that appear only on the lips or around the mouth may be cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters. They’re not shingles, but are instead caused by the herpes simplex virus. Itchy blisters that appear after hiking, gardening, or spending time outdoors could be a reaction to poison ivy, oak, or sumac. If you aren’t sure what’s causing your rash, see your healthcare provider.

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How Stress And Shingles Are Related

The reactivation of the VZV virus is linked to a weakened immune system, which can be a byproduct of stress. When the body is put under extreme stress, it can cause many negative effects on the mind and body, including creating a compromised immune system. Having a lowered immune system can make it harder for your body to defend itself against viruses, including the VZV virus. Other diseases such as HIV, cancer, cancer treatments and immunotherapy can also decrease immune system efficiency.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but the way you cope with these situations is important in ensuring a healthy body and mind. Here are a few tips for improving and managing the stress in your life for a healthier you:

Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy mind. Unfortunately, many of us do not get enough sleep. The Mayo Clinic states that in general, adults need between seven and nine hours of good sleep each night.

Physical Activity: Receiving the proper amount of exercise can benefit many areas of your life and can even decrease your chances of developing many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. It is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week.

How Long Between Shingles Attack And Recurrence

The time between an initial shingles case and its relapse can vary a great deal, and there is no established figure. However, researchers have noted most of these flare-ups arise in the four- to eight-year window following an initial attack. Recurrence within three years is much rarer.

Factors such as overall health status and the presence of other diseases can spur attacks, and there are preventative medications and approaches.

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Shingles And Stress: Is There A Link

Significant stress is believed to trigger shingles by weakening the immune system, which leads to the reactivation of the dormant varicella-zoster virus in the body.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a painful, stripe-shaped rash with small blisters to appear on one area of the body. It occurs when the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox, reactivates.

Shingles is common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , it affects 1 in 3 people in the United States.

A person who has had chickenpox still has the virus that causes it inside their body. It remains dormant and reactivates later in life as shingles.

Experts are not certain about what triggers the reactivation of shingles. However, many believe that significant or long-term stress may play a role.

This article explores the connection between shingles and stress. It also discusses the risk factors and triggers that may put a person at risk of shingles.

While anybody can get shingles, it is more common in older adults and people with weak immune systems. Experts believe that a weak immune system is crucial in triggering herpes zoster reactivation.

In a 2022 review, researchers also argued that the reemergence of shingles among people with COVID-19 might be related to the interplay between psychological and immunological stress in the body.

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