Is It Possible to Get Shingles More Than Once?

Also called herpes zoster, shingles is a viral infection that affects a nerve and the skin around it. The varicella-zoster virus is responsible for this condition - the same virus causes chickenpox. Shingles is quite common with one in every four people having it at least once in their life. You are at an increased risk of getting shingles as you get older; in fact, more than half of the cases involve people of ages 50 and older. It is thought that you are not going to get it again once you have it treated once. Is it really true? Let's find out more about it!


Can You Get Shingles Twice?

Though rare, you can get it again if you have a weakened immune system due to conditions like lymphoma, leukemia, or HIV. Certain medications can also suppress your immune system and increase your risk of getting shingles again.

However, it is important to note that an episode of shingles may last up to six weeks, and your immune system usually prepares itself to an extent that you do not really have to worry about getting shingles again at least for three years after the first bout. It is quite like chickenpox, but the only problem is that your resistance against shingles decreases over time. That is the reason why it is possible to get shingles again several years after you experience it for the first time.

Risk of Getting Shingles Again

There are certain risk factors putting you at a greater risk of getting shingles again. For instance:

  • Post-herpetic neuralgia is a risk for getting shingles again. This refers to pain that persists for several months or even years after you no longer have the shingles rash. About 10% of people with shingles develop post-herpetic neuralgia and are at a greater risk of getting shingles again.
  • Women are at a greater risk of getting shingles again; in fact, they are 60% more likely to get shingles again as compared to men.
  • People who get their first episode of shingles after 50 years of age are likely to experience a repeat episode.

Can Vaccine Help Prevent Reoccurrence?

Can you get shingles twice? Yes, there are chances of getting it again; in fact, it is also possible to get it in the same place on your body. Many experts are of the view that you can take the vaccine to help prevent a second round of shingles. In fact, it is thought that you should talk to your doctor and get the shingles vaccine (Zostavax) in your 50s.

While getting the vaccine will certainly lower your risk of getting shingles again, it is not clear how effective it is going to prove. It is hard to find any data to say anything for sure. Still, it is a good idea to get the vaccine after you get shingles. However, you usually do not need to take it immediately after you have recovered from shingles because your immune system will be ready for it and stay prepared for a few years. You can get the vaccine a few years after the first episode because that is when your immunity starts to wane.

It is worth mentioning that usually it is okay to get the shingles vaccine by the time you turn 50, but many doctors suggest that you should wait until later. That is mainly because the pain is usually worse when you are old. Your doctor may recommend getting the vaccine early in case your immune system is weak or you are pregnant.

When to See a Doctor

Can you get shingles twice? Yes and it is important to see your doctor the moment you experience the first sign of shingles. Early treatment accelerates recovery and saves you from dealing with any complication. For instance, you may develop sight or hearing problems if you have shingles on your face. Early treatment can lower risk of these complications. It is also important to seek immediate treatment if your immune system is weak and you cannot get the shingles vaccine.

It is also important to note that sometimes people think they have shingles but they actually have herpes simplex. It is commonly thought that herpes simplex only appears as "cold sores" around the genitals, but that is not always the case. It can show up anywhere and requires different treatment. Your doctor may order tests to make a correct diagnosis.

How to Treat Shingles When You Get It Again

You may have to take antiviral medicines to control the pain and help accelerate recovery. Some common medicines include Valacyclovir, Acyclovir, and Famciclovir. You can also try some home remedies to relieve itching, such as the use of wet compresses, oatmeal baths, and calamine lotion.

Your doctor may prescribe an anti-seizure medicine in case you have developed post-herpetic neuralgia. Sometimes, antidepressants also help. Just keep in mind that shingles treatments prove effective when you start them early, so do not ignore any symptoms and talk to your doctor right away to shorten your recovery time.

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