Recurrent Shingles

Shingles occurs when a weakened immune system cannot keep the varicella zoster virus, which causes chicken pox, dormant any longer. Approximately 25% of Americans will suffer from shingles, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Shingles typically occurs only once, but can recur a second or even rarer third time for some, and there are some differences from a single episode.

Will I Get Recurrent Shingles Often?

Doctors and other experts aren’t sure how many people suffer from recurrent shingles, but they know that it can occur more than once in those patients with weakened or compromised immune systems. Having shingles once greatly decreases your chances of getting it again and studies have shown that about 1% of people over the age of sixty who had shingles once had it recur within three years. If you are healthy, then you also have a lower chance of developing shingles again. Though with aging, your chances of a second occurrence of shingles does go up as the immune system doesn’t perform as well as before.

What Might Increase My Chances of Getting Recurrent Shingles?

Unfortunately the instance of recurrent shingles seems to be on the rise. Doctors aren’t sure why, but there are a number of factors that could be contributing to this increase due to a number of reasons and their effect on the immune system. These reasons include:

  • Ageing
  • Redundancy
  • Poor diet and lifestyle
  • Hormonal changes
  • Bereavement
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Trauma, injury, or major surgery
  • Stress

How Is Recurrent Shingles Treated?

If you believe you have shingles, see your doctor right away. Early treatment can ease the severity and the duration of the disease, help avoid related problems, such as hearing or sight problems, or severe headaches if you have shingles on the face and/or head. Your doctor will do tests to confirm a diagnosis of shingles and will then prescribe antiviral medications such as Valacyclovir, Famciclovir and Acyclovir. There are a number of options to help with pain, such as antidepressants or anti-seizure medications. If you experience itching due to the rash, you can try an oatmeal bath, calamine lotion or cool compresses.

How to Prevent Recurrent Shingles

If you have already experienced an extended episode of shingles pain that lasted more than two months, then you are at a higher risk for having a repeat episode of shingles. Women are also more likely than men to suffer from recurrent shingles, and the risk goes up for adults over the age of fifty. There are steps you can take to prevent a recurrence of shingles. These include:

  • Ask your doctor about getting vaccinated. The FDA has approved the use of Zostavax, the first vaccine for shingles. It can help the body keep the virus dormant so it doesn’t recur. It has proven to be effective in stopping recurrences in people who have had shingles and for those over sixty who have received the vaccine, the instance of infection was reduced by fifty percent.
  • Try vitamin supplementation. Vitamin C has shown to reduce the instance of recurrent shingles. Getting the vitamin from fresh fruits and vegetables is ideal, but an appropriate dosage of a Vitamin C supplement will also help. You can also supplement with a daily Vitamin B Complex to help keep the immune system strong and keep the disease dormant.
  • Talk to your doctor about Lysine. Lysine is an amino acid which inhibits the amino acid arginine, which viruses need to secrete proteins. By inhibiting arginine the virus can’t replicate and reactivate. Lysine tablets may then be helpful in preventing a recurrence of shingles.
  • Try herbal remedies. There are many herbs that can help strengthen both the immune system and the nervous system, thus helping to prevent a recurrence of shingles. Some of these herbs include Echinacea root, skullcap, and goldenseal root. Talk to your doctor about supplementing with these herbs to make sure they don’t interfere with any medications you may currently be taking.
  • Keep your immune system strong. Living a healthier lifestyle and eating a healthy diet can help keep your immune system strong to keep the shingles virus dormant. Exercise, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help keep you healthy and manage stress.
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