What is the Connection Between Chickenpox and Shingles?

connection between chickenpox and shingles

Many of you had chickenpox as a child. And, shingles is something you have only heard about. Other than the skin condition similarity, they’re not connected, right? Wrong. There is a connection between chickenpox and shingles. And it may not be what you expect.

Chickenpox Revisited: The Shingle Connection

So, you or your child had chickenpox before. It was itchy, but not that serious, right? Unfortunately, chickenpox is a relative of the herpes family tree. Formally, it is one of eight different forms of the virus. Chickenpox, in particular, is a skin manifestation of varicella zoster virus.

As far as being benign, children who contract it rarely develop serious complications. Adults and pregnant women can suffer more serious consequences.

However, whether benign or serious, chickenpox is still part of the herpes family. Therefore, it never leaves your body. As a child, this virus presents itself as chickenpox. But, as an adult who has had chickenpox, it becomes shingles.

This brand of herpes lingers in a bundle of nerves in the central nervous system. It can be reignited later in life due to stress. Both physical or emotional can trigger it. And, when it happens, it becomes shingles.

According to the Mayo Clinic, not everyone who has had chickenpox in the past will develop shingles in adulthood. You are more susceptible to the viral outbreak when your immune system is weakened. Whether that means severe stress, illness, or old age. Any of the above can trigger reactivation.

Remember how contagious chickenpox was? Well, shingles is just as contagious. If you have contact with anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox, they will also be infected with the virus. However, it is important to note that a person infected from exposure will develop chickenpox. Not shingles.

Final Thought

The connection between chickenpox and shingles is undeniable. And, the only way to really prevent either one is vaccination. You can have your children immunized for chickenpox. And, adults can receive a vaccination for shingles.