Shingles is a viral infection caused by Varicella Zoster virus which results out into painful, skin rash. The skin rashes appear normally in a strip, band pattern or on a small area, on either side of the body or face. The condition is also referred to as herpes zoster.

Shingles starts with a blistering form of a rash in a small band like manner, however, if an individual's immune system is weak, the rashes may spread across on several parts of the body. Following are the symptoms that are visible during shingles:-

  • Tingling, pain and itching may start as the rashes occur
  • High, recurrent fever
  • Frequent episodes of indigestion
  • Mild to severe headache
  • Frequent episodes of chills during fever

Can I Get Shingles Again In My Life?

Generally people have a misconception that if an individual has already suffered from shingles, it's unlikely for him to suffer from the same disease again, however, it is not true. In reality, shingles can come back, second or even the third time too. However, the same individual can take some steps to avoid it from happening again which shall be discussed during the later part.

Can I Get Shingles Again In My Life?

Research Study on the Rate of Reoccurrence of Shingles

In order to determine the rate of reoccurrence of shingles in individuals who have already suffered from shingles, a study was conducted by the researchers at Harvard. During the study, 2 time spans were considered i.e. 3 years and 7 years from the first episode of shingles.

Long Term Chances of Getting Shingles Once Again

As per the research conducted by the scientists at Harvard, it was found that odds of getting shingles again within the 7 years of the occurrence of the first episode of shingles is almost 6% in people with age 22 years or above. It is also the odds of getting shingles the very first time.

Short Term Chances of Getting Shingles Once Again

Another study was conducted to figure out the short term chances of getting shingles again and it was found that the chances are very low. People of all age groups were included in the study and it was found that only 1% people got shingles again within 3 years of the occurrence of the first episode of shingles.

Who All Are More Likely To Get Shingles Again In Life?

It is clear from the above study that the odds of having shingles again in the life exists but they are very low. A certain part of population falling under the following categories are the most susceptible individuals to suffer from shingles again in life:-

  • If the first episode of shingles happened when you were 50 year of age or above
  • If you are a women, your likelihood to suffer from shingles increase
  • If you had intense pain during the first episode of shingles and it lasted for more than a month. This condition is also called as PHN (post herpetic neuralgia)
  • If your immune system is very weak because of any one of the following conditions:-
    • Suffering from Lymphoma
    • Suffering from Leukemia
    • Suffering from HIV
    • Consumption of medications to suppress down the immune system.

Does Shingles Recur in the Same Place?

Shingles normally happens at a different site during the second encounter. During shingles, the rashes normally occur on the face or torso region. So as a simple rule, if the rashes occurred on the left side of the body during the first encounter, the second time it will happen on the right side of the body be it your neck, face, chest or back.

Can Vaccine Help Prevent Getting Shingles Again in Life?

Vaccination helps in preventing the second encounter of shingles, however, the age at which one can take the vaccine, needs to be taken care of. As per the CDC, the shingles vaccine called as the Zostavax can be taken if you are 60 years or older, however, in special cases, your physician may allow you to take the medication at the age of 50 years too.

Who All Should Avoid Zostavax Vaccination?

Before taking the vaccination, make sure that your body's immune system is not weak because if it is immunocompromised, the vaccination can actually cause shingles in your body.

Vaccination should not be injected immediately after the first episode of shingles. The person should wait for at least a year before which he should take the vaccination. This gap is actually the time that the body takes to strengthen its immune system again after the first encounter of shingles.

Let your physician know, if you are pregnant as injecting the Zostavax vaccine during pregnancy can actually result out into shingles and can also affect your fetus.

How Does A Physician Treat Shingles When It Comes Back?

On reoccurrence of shingles, the first line of treatment that is preferred by the physicians is the use of antiviral medications, as shingles is caused by a virus. Some of the antiviral medications prescribed by physicians are as follows:-

  • Valacyclovir
  • Acyclovir
  • Famciclovir

In order to relieve the patient from itching, following interventions are suggested by the physicians:-

  • Wet compress
  • Oatmeal baths
  • Calamine lotions

Further, to combat the intense pain caused during the second episode of shingles, the physicians prescribe gabapentin as well as antidepressants.

When Should I Consult My Physician for Shingles?

It is advisable to consult your physician at the very first sign of symptoms that is itching and fever. The sooner you start your treatment for shingles, the lesser are the risk factors that develop and eventually it becomes easy to treat them. For example, an early treatment of shingles on face can prevent the symptoms like loss of hearing or vision as well as can ease the PHN pain.

Secondly, in case, if the person has a weak immune system, an early intervention is the only way to successfully treat the patient suffering from shingles as other prevention measures like vaccination or antiviral high dose drugs may not be suitable for an immunocompromised body.

A viral culture test is conducted to confirm the disease.

Conclusion:

Therefore, it is clear that shingles can happen again, however, the chances of having it again are like once in a blue moon but the fact can't be ignored. The best way to keep a distance from shingles the second time or the third time is by getting vaccinated on time and keeping your body as healthy as possible. Remember, 'each cloud has a silver lining'.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: August 10, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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