Shingles are excruciating. Worst of all, they tend to rear their heads at an already uncomfortable stage of life. Just as people are adapting to the unpleasant reality of changing mobility, diminished memory, and more, they also have to worry about the risk of developing shingles. Typically appearing as a small, apron-like band or strip around the body or on the face, shingles is most common among the aging demographic and usually occurs as the result of diminished immune system functioning, excess stress, or using specific prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Also known as herpes zoster, shingles become a problem whenever the chickenpox virus becomes active again in your body. Thus, if you have ever asked the question, “Can I get shingles more than once?”, you probably won’t like the answer.
Can I Get Shingles More Than Once?
Much like getting chickenpox twice, getting a second shingles outbreak after you’ve already had one is highly unlikely, but that doesn’t mean that two shingles outbreaks can’t happen. Also known as recurrent shingles, second outbreaks of shingles are often linked to specific lifestyle factors like prescription drug use and stress. More importantly, the condition of your immune system will play a considerable role in determining whether or not recurring outbreaks are likely to occur. A healthy and robust immune system will have the ability to keep the virus in check so that it remains inactive throughout the remainder of your life. When people do develop shingles on more than one occasion, doctors are often interested in examining their lifestyles. Changing a person’s medication management plan or helping this individual learn new stress management skills could be critical for keeping additional outbreaks at bay.
The Best Preventing Strategies For Recurrent Shingles
If you currently use prescription drugs as a means for controlling or managing a chronic illness, it is important to mitigate the effects of these products so that you always have a balanced array of beneficial bacteria living in your gut. This is especially true for people who routinely use broad-spectrum antibiotics. Regular servings of yogurt and a willingness to explore various fermented foods like kimchi is an effective way to replenish stores of beneficial bacteria. In extreme cases of recurrent shingles, however, looking for alternative medications or alternative ways of treating infection may be necessary for preventing additional problems.
Other lifestyle changes are important as well. For instance, some people are advised to implement moderate and consistent workout plans while altering their diets. Excess caffeine, too much refined white sugar, and large quantities of high-acid and inflammation-causing foods can also impair the immune system. Working out is excellent stress management and implementing a diet that’s high in nutrient and antioxidant foods will bolster your body’s ability to both repair and protect itself. Above all things, people who struggle with recurrent shingles outbreaks should make sure to get a sufficient amount of sleep. Good sleep hygiene is critical for ensuring proper immune functioning. While these changes might seem moderate in the light of the extraordinary discomfort and inconvenience of shingles, their benefits can certainly add up over time. Conditions like HIV, leukemia and lymphoma among others can also have an impact on the performance of your immune system and may result in a number recurrent health issues, including recurrent shingles.
Other Factors Affecting The Likelihood Of Additional Shingles Outbreaks
There are a number of additional factors that can make a person more likely to experience recurring shingles outbreak. Unfortunately, however, many of these are factors that simply aren’t possible to mitigate. For instance, if you’ve asked the question, “Can I get shingles more than once?”, the answer is likely yes if you were or are:
– Over the age of 50 at the time of your very first shingles outbreak
– Suffering from a chronic condition that weakens the immune system.
– Suffering from shingles pain that exceeded 30 days in duration
Dealing With This Blistering Rash
There is no overstating the amount of discomfort that shingles can cause. This blistering rash can be itchy at the outset, but scratching to alleviate this itch will only cause further problems. Moreover, the rash is hot, and noticeable at all times of the day, irrespective of how much or how little you choose to move. The good news is that there are several things you can do to limit this discomfort, irrespective of whether this is your very first shingles outbreak, or a second one.
What To Do About Shingles Pain
If you’ve ever wondered why shingles hurts so much, it’s because this virus affects the nerve roots. This means that there are near constant transmissions to your brain describing the pain and triggering a normal pain response. Shingles can be uncomfortable no matter what you do, but there are also things that you can do to exacerbate this discomfort. For instance, when you have shingles, it is important to avoid tight-fitting clothing and to avoid irritating the affected area with other forms of friction. Loose and well-ventilated garments will limit the amount of discomfort that you feel throughout the duration of the illness.
Be mindful of the fact that like chickenpox, shingles can spread and if it isn’t treated properly it can actually spread quite fast. More importantly, however, untreated shingles can actually cause nerve damage. Thus, if you have shingles and are thinking that maybe you can simply ride the illness out – think again. 50 percent of senior adults who do not receive treatment for their shingles end up living with long-term nerve damage. The continued pain that this creates can last for weeks or even months after outbreaks of shingles have cleared. In rare instances, the effects and discomfort of this nerve damage can last for years, or even all throughout the remainder of a person’s lifetime. This secondary nerve damage is called postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. Bear in mind that PHN is highly preventable with proper and timely shingles treatment. When wondering what to do about shingles pain, your very best bet is to always consult with a doctor first.
Another important thing to note is that not everyone who gets treated in a timely fashion is able to avoid PHN. In fact, the presence of PHN may be another factor that determines whether or not shingles will recur. If a person maintains a consistent level of discomfort for 30 days or more, this individual probably has both PHN and a higher than average likelihood of developing recurrent shingles. This also raises the question as to whether or not PHN and the probability of developing it is related to a person’s stress levels and medication use as well.
Shingle Treatment And PHN
When properly treated by a doctor, a shingles outbreak will hopefully have a shorter duration, be less painful and have a lesser likelihood of recurring. Treatment also diminishes the likelihood of PHN by keeping the outbreak contained and thereby, lessening the affected area and nerve clusters.
Itching, Shingles, And PHN
Itching is a major problem when dealing with shingles. In this way, it can feel a lot like the chickenpox rash that once preceded it. By not scratching the affected area, you can reduce the chances of having the apron-like rash spread and you can also limit your likelihood of PHN. Your doctor will likely prescribe an antiviral medication as part of your treatment. By improving your stress management plan and possibly adjusting your prescription medicine schedule, you may be able improve the way in which your body responds to antiviral therapies. In terms of controlling your itching, however, your provider may have a number of strategies that you can use on your own at home.
Taking oatmeal baths is one. Warm soaks in water that has had colloidal oatmeal added to it will soothe the affected areas. You can also try Calamine lotion or any other topical, anti-itch agent that your doctor recommends or prescribes. It is also a good idea to wear mittens while you sleep, so that you don’t accidentally scratch the area during the night. Not only is scratching potentially linked to the development of PHN and the further spread of shingles outbreaks, but it can also open the door to various forms of secondary skin infections. This is all the more true for individuals with compromised immune system. Scratches can create small tears in the skin that may let harmful bacteria in. Cool, wet compresses may be able to alleviate shingles itching as well.
For more information about Shingles treatment, click here for the Mayo Clinic site.
Why PHN Is So Important
Far more common than recurring shingles is the development of PHN. Moreover, a long-term case of PHN can have a far more significant impact on a person’s life, life quality and emotional well-being than can a short, second case of shingles. It is additionally important to consider the fact that PHN may be a leading risk factor for recurrent shingles.
PHN is the foremost reason why shingles should always be quickly and professionally treated. The strategic use of antiviral medications greatly diminishes the duration of the outbreak and the likelihood of PHN. It can also alleviate the itching that frequently leads to skin irritation, secondary skin infections, and a fast-spreading problem. Most people find that antiviral medication is infinitely more effective than the use of colloidal oatmeal, Calamine lotion or cool compresses.
Senior Isolation And Recurrent Shingles
Those who ask the question, “Can I get shingles more than once”, are often apart of the aging population. Many of these individuals live fairly restricted lives and rarely have the opportunity to get out, socialize, seek timely medical care and take care of other important needs and errands. Not only is this detrimental to a person’s ability to get timely treatment for shingles, but it can also affect his or her psychological well-being. A lot of seniors who live in isolation deal with considerable amounts of stress and anxiety that greatly diminish their immune functioning and their overall health in a variety of ways.
When psychological factors exist like senior isolation, correcting the individual’s lifestyle and social habits could be critical for preventing further occurrences of this illness. People who live alone or in total isolation often have a very high likelihood of both developing shingles and getting it again. You can talk with your doctor about establishing a plan for preventing isolation to effectively remove this often unrecognized risk factor.
What To Do When You Get Shingles Again
Getting shingles for a second time can be disheartening to say the least. If you were able to keep PHN at bay during your first go-around with this illness, then you should work just as hard to limit the potential for this issue going forward. This means consulting with your doctor right away and starting the recommended antiviral medication. You should also uses strategies for mitigating the itchiness and discomfort that you feel all throughout your illness. Sleep more, eat better, wear loose and well-ventilated clothes and avoid activities that cause a lot of skin friction. Also, try to avoid engaging in rigorous exercise given that sweating could cause skin irritation as well.
Risk Factors You Can’t Control
Whether you get shingles more than once is determined by both factors that you can control and factors that you can’t control. If you are a woman or were over the age of 50 during your first outbreak, then you should have a solid plan for mitigating PHN and for getting the professional treatment you need right away. While these factors don’t guarantee that shingles will recur, they are important.
Shingles is incredibly painful, but it doesn’t have to be. Your doctor has a number of options in antiviral medications that he or she can prescribe. A reputable medical professional will also take the time to review the medications that you are currently taking. If one of these drugs is believed to be increasing your likelihood of additional problems with shingles, your medication management plan will ultimately be changed. Small adjustments like these could keep you safe and feeling your very best for some time to come.
Sleep hygiene is a very important part of your overall well-being and health, particularly as you grow older. Make sure that you’re maintaining a regular sleep schedule throughout the year so that your body is able to get all of the rejuvenating rest it requires. This will bolster your immune system so that it has a better ability to keep the chickenpox virus that’s hiding in your system, in an essentially dormant state. After you have already had shingles, mitigation strategies can be used again to prevent the problem from recurring.
Never assume that you cannot get shingles more than once. If the right risk factors and life habits exist, this could actually become a recurring issue. Getting your first outbreak of shingles treated quickly and with an appropriate antiviral medication is key to retaining your good health. With insufficient care and no strategies for mitigating the discomfort caused by shingles, your outbreak will be longer, the rash may spread, and you could wind up with lasting nerve damage. Having your doctor treat this illness is therefore the very best step that you can make in keeping it contained.