Can Stress Cause the Start and Spreading of Shingles? Symptoms and Prevention

Even though shingles outbreaks occur in one in three people at some point in their lifetime, it is not a condition discussed that prominently in normal, everyday conversations. A few precursors are required to be at risk for shingles, number one is you have to have been infected with the chickenpox (herpes zoster virus) previously. You cannot contract shingles if you have never had chickenpox because shingles is a reiteration of a childhood ailment into mature adulthood. Senior persons, over the age of 50, comprise the largest segment of shingles sufferers.

How Does Shingles Start? The Beginning Symptoms

How does shingles start? The symptoms originate as warning signs, one to five days before the skin reacts. Shingles favorite spot to emerge is on the stomach or torso, but many people experience signs on their face and neck too. Early manifestations include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingles or pins-and-needles sensation
  • Itching
  • Burning pain

This virus thrives and travels along the nerves in the body, affected them directly. Because of this, shingles is exponentially more painful or numbing than other rashes. If allowed to grow rampant and untreated, it can generate scar tissue and cause lasting nerve pain long after the blisters have mended.

As days pass, pain can progress to stabbing, sharp bursts. Many sufferers report hypersensitivity as well. Outside of the skin’s state, some people exhibit accompanying issues:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Aches
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fever

After initial stages, a rash will crop up.

Pictures of Herpes Zoster Blisters

The shingles rash has defining characteristics that uniquely mark it from other rashes. HZV builds on one side of the body, forming into what has been described as a belt or one single band. In early phases, shingles are small red spots that progress to fluid-filled blisters. The lumps eventually burst to form crusty scabs which are no longer contagious.

Diagnosis can be aided through comparisons of confirmed shingles pictures. Utilize these photos to analyze your or your loved one’s mystery rash.

Does Stress Cause Shingles?

The herpes zoster virus, like all viruses in the herpes family, continues to live indefinitely within the body after infection. It is possible for the microbe to lay dormant for a person’s entire adulthood. The immune system adapts to coexist with billions of bacteria and viruses in a balanced ecosystem. It isn’t until something disrupts the equilibrium that complications happen.

Does stress cause shingles? Yes! Stress is potentially the most underrated trigger for disease. As a society, we tend to frame disease as an attack from bacteria, viruses, or genetics. It is a bit of a backward approach because our bodies are resistant to billions of environmental factors if everything is functioning optimally.

Stress, a nebulous abstract concept, manifests itself in hard physical evidence in the body. The human body is hard-wired to respond to stimulus with the fight-or-flight response. Stress, no matter the source, plays out like this:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Heavy breathing
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Muscles tighten
  • Hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released

Historically, these reactions occurred to help us avoid being eaten by a tiger or murdered by an enemy tribe. It is only meant to be an occasional reaction to a threatening situation. In contemporary times, we have an epidemic of manufactured stress.

Humans have removed themselves from the food chain and the majority of the species are not facing life-or-death situations regularly. We have replaced the episodic stress for chronic stressors like balancing jobs, family, houses, and dreams. The body doesn’t know the difference between “the bear is going to maul me” and “my job depends on this presentation.”

Studies have shown a correlation between high-stress lifestyles and shingles outbreaks. A catastrophic event, like a death, job loss, or injury, can have similar results.

How Does Shingles Spread?

For the majority of cases, the rash stays isolated to its beginning camp. It prefers the midsection to other parts of the body. But for an unlucky 20%, shingles can cross dermatomes. Dermatomes are classifications for areas of skin connected to separate spinal nerves. When shingles spread to multiple dermatomes it is referred to as disseminated zoster or widespread zoster.

How does shingles spread for the twenty percent? Researchers believe widespread zoster is induced within a weakened immune system.

How to Keep Shingles from Spreading on Your Body

The immune system is your line of defense against intruders. The best way how to keep shingles from spreading in the body is by boosting your immune system and supporting the battle.

Harvard Health suggests the following methods to aid in the fight:

  • Minimize stress.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid alcohol or drink only in moderation.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Sleep, ideally at least 7-8 hours a night.
  • Wash hands regularly.

While fighting shingles directly, you may need to modify a few items on the list. For example, exercise is still permitted, but choose gentler movements like walking or yoga to avoid overexertion. You may also want to increase water intake and hours of sleep during the recovery period.

 

 

Article References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/features/shingles/index.html
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/early-symptoms-shingles#first-symptoms
  3. https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body#1
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4140624/
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/hcp/clinical-overview.html
  6. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1878388-overview
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/shingles-pictures#widespread-shingles
  8. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

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