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How does stress affect shingles?

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Quick Answer

The same virus that causes chicken pox, the varicella-zoster virus, is the culprit in cases of shingles, according to MedicineNet. After chicken pox, the virus remains in the body in a latent state but can be activated by any number of factors, including age and stress.

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Full Answer

Shingles occurs when the reactivated varicella-zoster virus afflicts the nerve pathways, causing symptoms that range from blisters to headache, fever, numbness, tingling and fatigue, explains the National Institutes of Health. Stress alone does not reactivate the virus that causes shingles, but the condition is often found in people who have recently experienced a stressful event in their lives. The link between shingles and stress may be the immune system. Shingles, and its resulting symptoms of an uncomfortable rash and nerve irritation, is often diagnosed in individuals with a weakened immune system. Stress has been shown to impact the immune system, leaving people under stress more likely to experience infection.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that those suffering from shingles attempt to reduce the amount of stress in their lives. Some relief of symptoms, such as itching and pain, can also be achieved by soothing the skin with cool water, taking a bath or using wet compresses on blisters.

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