The Surprising Link Between Shingles and Stress

stressed senior woman

Shingles, also known as the Herpes Zoster virus, certainly takes a toll on an individual’s body—as does stress. And while stress may not directly cause or trigger shingles, there is a link between the two. Large amounts of stress can wear away at the body’s immune system, lowering its ability to defend against all sorts of viruses—shingles included. 

Chickenpox & Shingles

Shingles is classified as a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, causing a painful rash. Therefore, you can potentially experience shingles if you’ve had chickenpox at one point earlier in life, as it remains in your body even after you have recovered. Despite shingles stemming from the same virus as chickenpox, it isn’t known what exactly reactivates the virus. Characteristics like a weakened immune system, which can be caused by excessive amounts of stress, can leave an individual more susceptible, though. 

Symptoms of Shingles

A painful rash is the main symptom of shingles, often appearing as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso. Other common symptoms can include:

  • Pain, burning, numbness, or tingling around the rash
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigue

Prevention & Treatment for Shingles

If you are worried about shingles, there are a few different treatment options available. Since shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, the chickenpox vaccine is one preventative measure. The vaccine is also recommended for adults who’ve never had chickenpox. There are also two shingles-specific vaccines available. Choosing any of these prevention methods doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get the chickenpox or shingles, but it will likely reduce the course and severity of the disease if you do end up experiencing it. In terms of treatment for shingles, there’s no current cure but there are available treatment options. Prompt treatment with prescription antiviral drugs can speed healing and reduce your risk of complications. 

 How to Manage Your Stress 

Another preventative measure for shingles is stress management, as this can not only help protect your immune system but also improve your overall state of mind. There are countless triggers and sources of stress, ranging from everyday work tasks to more severe situations such as a sudden death in the family or unexpectedly losing your job. Everyone has different stressors, and finding the right management techniques will vary from person to person. Some ways to manage your stress include:

Exercising

Moving your body is a great way to clear your mind and increase endorphins, which are known to reduce stress. This chemical reaction itself is enough reason to exercise away your stress, but there are other perks as well. You can use this time to clear your head, or exercise with friends and socialize to boost your mood. Choose any type of activity that you enjoy: running, yoga, kickboxing, cycling, etc. 

Meditating

On the flip side, slowing down and taking a few moments to breathe and clear your mind can do wonders for your stress. Meditating can mean sitting cross-legged in complete silence, laying down and listening to calm sounds, or just simply going outside for fresh air and a few deep breaths. 

Relaxing Your Muscles

Stress can sometimes lead to tense, tight muscles. By working these muscles out, you can aid in also easing some of your stress. Some popular ways to do this include getting a massage, stretching, and taking a warm bath.

At-Home Care From DispatchHealth

If you do end up with shingles, you can seek treatment from DispatchHealth without ever leaving your home. We proudly provide in-home, professional medical treatment so that patients can remain absolutely comfortable and safe, especially during COVID-19 while social distancing is still an advised practice. Follow this link to learn how you can request a visit from the DispatchHealth team. 

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4140624/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353054
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353060
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469
  5. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/3-tips-to-manage-stress
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html

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