Is A Case Of Recurring Shingles Very Common?
Shingles is supposedly a one time only condition, yet one occasionally hears of cases of recurring shingles. To become afflicted with shingles in the first place, one has to have had chickenpox at some time previously in life. Chicken pox, once a common childhood disease that is still not all that uncommon, is caused by a virus called varicella zoster. When one has chickenpox they will have an itchy, blistered rash over most of their body. This condition soon goes away, but a form of the virus remains in the body.
A Pesky Little Virus - Our immune system in the meantime has developed an immunity to the varicella zoster virus and, except for very rare instances, one should never get the chickenpox again. The form of the varicella zoster virus which does remain in the body is called herpes zoster. It takes up residence in the nerves around the spinal cord and may or may not cause trouble later one. When it does, most often in people over their 60's, though it can strike at any age, the result is what we call shingles. Typically shingles causes itchy and often very painful, rashes on the skin on one part of the body. Usually only one side of the body is affected, but both sides can be. Shingles can also affect internal organs. This is a rather rare condition, and like external shingles, the symptoms will usually dissipate in a few weeks. Internal shingles can be more serious, depending upon which internal organs are affected. Both internal and external shingles can be treated, or at least the symptoms can be made to be less painful, but the virus has to run its course.
Stress And The Immune System - The risk of incurring shingles is increased if a person's immune system has in some way been compromised. The same can be said regarding recurring shingles. Though recurring shingles is rather rare, people with a chronically compromised immune system, usually the elderly or those with immune disorders, HIV being but one example, are at higher risk of getting shingles more than a single time. Higher risk individuals can take the shingles vaccine which will lessen the chances of an outbreak, whether a first time outbreak or a recurring one. Stress also appear to play an important role as a risk factor for shingles, and stress reduction exercises and techniques are often prescribed for those who appear at risk. Stress reduction also has been shown to reduce the severity of the outbreak should one occur.
Recurring Shingles May Signal A Deeper Issue - Only about 4 in one hundred people who have had a shingles attack will experience recurring shingles. The low number is in one way a bit surprising in that the cause of shingles, the herpes zoster virus, never leaves the body. An individual who has suffered a bout of shingles, never really develops an iron-clad immunity against a repeat performance. In one sense, recurring shingles can signal the presence of a deeper and perhaps more serious problem, that being that something is causing a compromised immune system and may require diagnosis and treatment.
Not Contagious, But - Shingles is not a contagious disease in the sense that if you have shingles you can spread shingles to others. No one will “catch” shingles from you. If one has not had chickenpox however, they can be infected with chicken pox upon contact with a person who has shingles. This would have to be during the period when the skin rash symptoms are in full force. The person coming down with chickenpox would then end up harboring the virus that could cause shingles at a later time, so in effect, there has been a secondary or time-delayed type of contagion.
Should you be unfortunate to come down with an outbreak of shingles, be it recurring shingles, or on a first time basis, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the severity of the symptoms. It helps if you can begin treatment as early as possible once shingles has been diagnosed. Early detection can help reduce the severity of the disease. Never allow the disease to go untreated, even if the symptoms are mild, especially if eyes or ears appear to be affected. Hopefully, the itching and pain can be kept to a tolerable state and the virus will run its course, never to return.