Can I Still Get Shingles (Herpes Zoster) if I Had Chicken Pox?

Shingles on a person's face Can I Still Get Shingles (Herpes Zoster) if I Had Chicken Pox?

Shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus -- varicella-zoster. Unfortunately, that raises concerns about getting shingles even after you've had chicken pox. Here's what you need to know.

Can I Get Shingles After Having Chicken Pox?

Unfortunately, yes. Since shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus, anyone who has had chickenpox in the past can develop shingles in the future. The virus can remain dormant for years at a time, so if you had chickenpox as a child, you may not develop shingles until well into adulthood. In fact, the virus may remain dormant for the rest of your life! That being said, having chickenpox as a child does put you at a higher risk for developing shingles. If you've received the chickenpox or shingles vaccine, however, you're protected from this virus. So what can you do if you get shingles? What does it look like? Here's everything you need to know.

Who Is at Risk for Shingles?

As we covered above, anyone who has had chickenpox in the past is at risk for shingles. That being said, there are a number of other risk factors that may increase your likelihood of developing shingles. First, if you are older than 50, you may be at a higher risk of developing shingles. In addition, certain diseases that weaken the immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer, etc.) can increase the risk of someone developing shingles. Radiation or chemotherapy may increase your risk for the same reasons. Taking certain medications can also be a risk factor, so make sure you ask your medical provider about potential risks if you're concerned about developing shingles.

Is Shingles Contagious?

Shingles is contagious, but only for a limited period of time. When the shingles rash is in the blister phase, that's when other people can contract it. Fortunately, the risk of spreading shingles is low when you keep the rash covered. Direct contact with the rash is typically what spreads the disease. Before the rash is in the blister phase and after it has crusted over, shingles is no longer contagious. Shingles treatment with antiviral medications can help speed healing and reduce the risk of any complications during your contagious phase.

How do I Know if I Have Shingles?

There are many shingles symptoms to be on the lookout for. If you have one or more of the following symptoms, it might be a good idea to see your doctor. Some of the most common shingles symptoms include headache, fever and chills, nausea, and body aches. These are all flu-like symptoms, which may be difficult to differentiate from a bad case of the flu. If, however, you experience an itching, burning, or stinging sensation in one isolated area followed by the development of a rash, you should see your doctor immediately. In addition, fluid-filled blistering rashes, primarily on your face or chest, is a sure sign that you may have shingles.

It might seem frustrating that chickenpox puts you at a greater risk of developing shingles. But with early detection and effective treatment, you can minimize the amount of time that shingles disrupts your life. If you think you're experiencing shingles symptoms or you have a rash you need looked at, make an appointment with one of our doctors at SE Dermatology Specialists today.

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