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Can I Get Shingles Twice?
Absolutely, you can get shingles more than once. The thought might be a bit unsettling, but it’s important to understand how and why this can happen. Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, reactivate the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus) in your body. Even if you’ve had shingles before, the virus stays dormant in your nerve cells and can reactivate.
What Triggers Shingles?
1. Immune System Changes
Your immune system is crucial in keeping the varicella-zoster virus in check. The virus may reawaken if your immune system weakens due to age, stress, or medical conditions.
As you grow older, your immune system naturally becomes less effective. This is why shingles are more common in older adults, especially over the age of 50.
3. Medical Conditions and Treatments
Certain medical conditions like HIV, cancer, or autoimmune diseases and treatments like chemotherapy or steroids can weaken your immune system, making a second round of shingles more likely.
Stress can impact your body in many ways, including weakening your immune response. This can potentially trigger a shingles outbreak.
Symptoms to Watch For
If you’ve had shingles before, you’re probably familiar with the symptoms. But it’s good to refresh your memory:
- Pain and Burning: The first sign is often a tingling or painful sensation on one side of your body or face.
- Rash and Blisters: A few days later, rash and fluid-filled blisters appear, typically on one side of your body.
- Other Symptoms: You might also experience fever, headache, upset stomach, or fatigue.
Prevention and Vaccination
The shingles vaccine is your best defense. It can reduce your risk of getting shingles and, if you do get it, can make it less severe. Even if you’ve had shingles before, the vaccine is still recommended.
A healthy lifestyle can bolster your immune system. This includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, and managing stress.
Treatment When It Comes Back?
If you do get shingles again:
- Antiviral Medication (Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, Famciclovir): This can help reduce the severity and duration of an outbreak if taken early.
- Pain Management: Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication like gabapentin can help manage the discomfort.
- Home Remedies: Cool compresses, oatmeal baths, and calamine lotion may soothe the rash.
Yes, you can get shingles more than once. To lower your risk, consider the vaccine and maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you suspect a shingles outbreak, seek medical advice quickly for the best outcome.
Further Reading: Symptoms of Shingles