Why Does Shingles Reoccur and Can You Prevent It?

recurring shingles

Shingles is a condition that affects almost one in three Americans at some point in their life. The cause of this infection is the varicella zoster virus that also causes chickenpox. Once it enters your body, VZV stays in your system and may even reactivate sometimes. As such, some people may experience a case of recurring shingles.

How Common Is Recurring Shingles?

There’s very little exact data on the prevalence of recurring shingles. One study revealed that no more than six percent of people suffer from it. Furthermore, the amount of time that passes between outbreaks can vary from a few months to 10 years.

The researchers of this study don’t know what makes shingles reoccur. It is thus impossible to define the risk factors for this condition. As a rule, people with an impaired immune system as a result of chronic disease are at most at risk. The risk may also be higher for people who have experienced more severe symptoms of shingles. Also, available data suggest that women over the age of 50 have higher chances of developing shingles for the second time.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Whether the condition reoccurs or not, the treatment for shingles is always the same. It usually includes antiviral drugs like acyclovir and famciclovir. In some cases, your doctor will prescribe other medications to relieve the pain and help you get some sleep.

The whole treatment will normally last for up to six weeks. But some people may still experience pain even after all the other symptoms have disappeared. If so, it may be the sign of postherpetic neuralgia, a rare condition that only affects two percent of shingles patients. It can last for up to five years and is more common in women.

Can You Prevent Recurring Shingles?

There is no way to prevent shingles from reoccurring. But you can lower your risk of developing shingles in the first place by getting a herpes zoster vaccine. Doctors will only administer the shot to people over the age of 50.

If you have a weakened immune system, the doctor won’t give you the vaccine even if you meet the age requirement. Also, keep in mind that shingles is contagious. You should thus avoid contact with anyone infected and maintain proper personal hygiene.