Shingles and Stress: Is There a Link?

Significant stress is thought to trigger shingles by weakening the immune system, leading to reactivation of the dormant varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox) in the body.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a painful, streak-like rash of small blisters to appear on one part of the body. It occurs when the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox, becomes reactivated.

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

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

Experts aren’t sure what triggers reactivation of shingles. However, many believe that significant or long-term stress may play a role.

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

While anyone can get shingles, it’s 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.

A Study 2018 found that perceived psychological stress, negative life events, and low sense of purpose may contribute to the development of shingles and postherpetic neuralgia, a complication of shingles. In addition, men with high levels of psychological distress were twice as likely to develop herpes zoster.

in one Review 2022The researchers also argued that the recurrence of shingles in people with COVID-19 could be related to the interplay between psychological and immunological stress in the body.

A stressful event causes the release of cortisol and adrenaline, which are part of the fight or flight response. Cortisol also suppresses the immune system. Meanwhile, prolonged stress can alter bodily processes, leading to a variety of health problems, including:

However, there are also studies with conflicting results. A Study 2014 examined the link between shingles and stress using data from 39,811 people who experienced stressful events, including the death of a spouse, admission to the intensive care unit, surgery and injury. The researchers found that the stressors increased mental health visits, but not shingles.

Likewise a Study 2016 found no increase in herpes zoster after the death of a partner.

Having chickenpox is the main risk factor for shingles. Age is another factor increases a person’s likelihood of getting shingles and having serious complications.

Certain health conditions and treatments weaken the immune system and put a person at a higher risk of getting shingles. she contain:

Apart from these, a Review 2020 found that people with a family history of shingles and physical trauma also have a higher risk of getting shingles. The researchers also saw that a person who is female, experiences psychological stress and has the following conditions also has a slightly lower risk of shingles:

The primary symptom of shingles is a painful, blistering rash. It commonly appears as a single stripe on either side of the torso or one side of the face. These usually burst open and scab over 7-10 days and clears up within 2–4 weeks.

Learn more about how long shingles lasts here.

A person may experience pain, tingling, or itching in the area for several days before the blister-like rash appears. Other symptoms can include:

Shingles can appear anywhere in the body and can resemble chickenpox, although this is rare. This is more common in people with weakened immune systems.

Like other viral infections, it is self-limiting and usually without complications. However, it can cause long-term complications such as:

Like other viral infections, shingles has no cure and must go away on its own. However, a doctor can prescribe antiviral drugs to speed up the healing process, reduce its severity and prevent such complications as postherpetic neuralgia.

Ideally, doctors give these drugs to people older than 50 and to people who are immunocompromised or immunocompromised. Antiviral therapy is most effective when given internally 72 hours the appearance of the rash.

Learn more about treating shingles here.

A doctor may also prescribe pain relievers to reduce the pain. Applying calamine lotion, taking oatmeal baths, and placing cool, damp washcloths over the rash can help reduce the itching of the blisters.

Certain home management strategies can help a person manage their symptoms and feel more comfortable, including:

  • wear loose-fitting clothing
  • eat balanced meals
  • reduce stress
  • do gentle exercises
  • Doing things that take your mind off the pain
  • get a lot of rest

It’s also important to cover the rash and practice proper hygiene to avoid spreading the virus.

Read on to learn more about whether shingles is contagious.

Because shingles is caused by the virus that causes chickenpox, vaccination with the varicella or chickenpox vaccine can protect a person from shingles. Receiving two doses of the chickenpox vaccine offer more than 90% Protection against chickenpox.

Besides the CDC recommends that people 50 years and older and immunocompromised people 19 years and older take two doses of Shingrix to prevent shingles and its associated complications.

Taking steps to eliminate or better manage stress can prevent shingles and help improve a person’s overall health and well-being.

Some tips that can help a person reduce stress include:

  • Avoid things that cause stress
  • Keeping a journal to note a person’s daily mood and possible stress triggers
  • Exercise regularly
  • eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Use stress relaxation techniques
  • learn to say “no”.
  • set realistic goals
  • to take time for self-care
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Practice mindfulness and gratitude
  • get enough sleep
  • turn off the phone or reduce screen time

Learn more about stress management here.

A person who suspects they have shingles should see their doctor immediately. It’s best to speak to a doctor as soon as the shingles rash appears so that they can prescribe antiviral medications to reduce the severity and duration of the condition.

Shingles is a common viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox). It is characterized by a painful, blister-like rash that typically appears in a single band on one side of the body.

While health experts don’t know exactly why the virus reactivates in the body, some studies suggest stress may be a factor as it weakens the immune system.

A person who has not previously had the chickenpox virus can get the varicella or chickenpox vaccine to protect them from shingles.

Learning how to better manage or manage stress can also help prevent shingles in people and improve overall health.

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