can shingles be caused by stress

Mariah Brown

written by

Mariah Brown

update on

can shingles be caused by stress

Welcome! Are you curious to know if stress can trigger shingles? You’ve come to the right place. Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash, and many wonder whether stress plays a role in its development. In this article, we will explore the relationship between stress and shingles, explain how stress affects your body, discuss the triggers and risk factors for shingles, delve into its symptoms, treatment, and prevention, and provide you with a comprehensive understanding of this topic. Let’s get started!

I have experience and knowledge in the field of stress-related health issues and their impact on the body. Through extensive research and professional expertise, I aim to provide you with valuable information about whether stress can indeed cause shingles. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the details and find out the answer to your question!

How Does Stress Affect Your Body?

The Connection between Stress and Shingles

Stress has been identified as a trigger for shingles. It is believed that psychological stress can weaken the immune system and increase inflammation in the body, making it more susceptible to viral infections. In the case of shingles, the varicella-zoster virus, which lies dormant in the nerves after a person has had chickenpox, can be reactivated when the immune system is compromised, leading to the development of shingles.

Research suggests that chronic stress, as well as stressful life events, may increase the risk of developing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. Therefore, it is crucial to manage stress effectively to minimize the chances of experiencing a shingles outbreak. Let’s explore the effects of stress on your body in more detail to understand this connection further.

The Effects of Stress on Your Body

Stress can wreak havoc on your physical and mental well-being. When you experience stress, your body releases stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can have detrimental effects if constantly elevated. Here are some ways in which stress affects your body:

  • Weakens the immune system: Prolonged stress can suppress the immune system, making it less efficient in fighting off infections and diseases.
  • Increases inflammation: Stress triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body, leading to inflammation. Elevated inflammation levels can contribute to various health issues, including the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus.
  • Affects sleep patterns: Chronic stress can disrupt your sleep, making it harder for your body to repair and regenerate.
  • Impacts digestive health: Stress can affect your digestive system, leading to issues such as stomach ulcers, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and other gastrointestinal problems.

By understanding how stress affects your body, it becomes clear why stress may be a contributing factor in the development of shingles. Let’s now explore the triggers and risk factors for shingles to gain further insight.

Shingles Triggers and Risk Factors

Other Factors that Trigger Shingles

While stress is a significant trigger for shingles, it is not the sole factor. Several other elements can contribute to the development of shingles. They include:

  • Aging: As you age, your immune system naturally weakens, increasing the risk of shingles.
  • Weakened immune system: Conditions or medications that compromise the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or immunosuppressants, make individuals more susceptible to shingles.
  • Previous chickenpox infection: If you’ve had chickenpox before, the virus may lie dormant in your nerves for years or decades and reactivate later as shingles.

It’s essential to note that while these factors contribute to the risk of shingles, stress can exacerbate the likelihood of experiencing an outbreak. Now that we’re aware of the triggers and risk factors, let’s explore the symptoms of shingles to understand how it presents itself.

Symptoms of Shingles

Shingles typically presents itself through various symptoms, which may vary from person to person. The common signs and symptoms include:

  • Painful rash: Shingles usually manifests as a painful rash that appears as a single stripe or band on one side of the body.
  • Itching and burning sensations: Along with pain, individuals may experience itching and burning in the affected area.
  • Fluid-filled blisters: The rash may progress to fluid-filled blisters that eventually break open and crust over.
  • Sensitivity to touch: Affected individuals may experience heightened sensitivity or pain when the affected area is touched.
  • Fever and fatigue: Some individuals may also experience fever, fatigue, and general malaise.

If you notice these symptoms, it is vital to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. Speaking of treatment, let’s discuss how shingles can be managed effectively.

Treatment and Prevention of Shingles

Treatment Options for Shingles

When diagnosed with shingles, various treatment options can help manage the infection and alleviate symptoms. These treatment approaches include:

  • Antiviral medications: Prescription antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir, may help reduce the severity and duration of a shingles outbreak by inhibiting the replication of the virus.
  • Pain medications: Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, such as NSAIDs or opioids, may be prescribed to manage the pain associated with shingles.
  • Topical creams: Applying topical creams or ointments containing numbing agents, such as lidocaine, may help provide relief from the discomfort caused by shingles.
  • Home remedies: There are several home remedies that can complement medical treatment, including applying cool compresses, taking oatmeal baths, and using calamine lotion to soothe the affected area.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment plan based on your specific condition. Beyond treatment, taking preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of shingles outbreaks. One crucial aspect of prevention is managing stress levels effectively. Let’s explore how you can avoid stress and reduce the chances of triggering shingles.

Managing Stress to Avoid Shingles

To reduce stress and minimize the risk of shingles, it is essential to incorporate stress management techniques into your daily life. Here are some effective ways to manage stress:

  • Regular exercise: Engaging in physical activity, such as walking, yoga, or swimming, can help reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being.
  • Relaxation exercises: Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness can help reduce stress and promote a sense of calmness.
  • Seek support: Talking to friends, family, or a therapist about your stress and worries can provide emotional support and help relieve stress.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Adequate sleep, a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients, and minimizing the consumption of alcohol and caffeine can contribute to a healthier body and mind, reducing the impact of stress.

By incorporating these practices into your life, you can better manage stress and minimize the chances of experiencing a shingles outbreak. Remember, prevention is key. Now that we’ve covered the ways to manage stress and prevent shingles, let’s provide a detailed breakdown in the form of a table to summarize the important points discussed.

Table: Understanding the Relationship between Stress and Shingles

Key Points
Stress can trigger the development of shingles, a painful viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
Chronic stress and stressful life events increase the risk of developing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia.
Stress weakens the immune system and increases inflammation, which may contribute to the reactivation of the virus.
Other risk factors for shingles include aging, weakened immune system, and previous infection with chickenpox.
Managing stress through various techniques and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help prevent and reduce the severity of shingles outbreaks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Shingles and Stress

Q: Can stress directly cause shingles?

A: While stress does not directly cause shingles, it can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of reactivating the varicella-zoster virus, leading to the development of shingles.

Q: How long does a shingles rash typically last?

A: The rash caused by shingles usually lasts between two to four weeks. However, some individuals may experience lingering pain even after the rash has healed, known as postherpetic neuralgia.

Q: Can childhood stress contribute to shingles later in life?

A: Childhood stress itself does not directly contribute to shingles later in life. However, the cumulative effects of stress throughout one’s life may weaken the immune system and increase the risk of developing shingles.

Q: Is there a vaccine available for shingles?

A: Yes, there is a vaccine called Zostavax, which has been approved for the prevention of shingles in individuals aged 50 and older. In recent years, a new and more effective vaccine called Shingrix has become available, recommended for individuals aged 50 and older.

Q: Can essential oils help relieve the symptoms of shingles?

A: While essential oils may provide temporary relief from symptoms such as pain and itching, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using them as a complementary treatment for shingles.

Q: Are shingles contagious?

A: Shingles itself is not contagious. However, the varicella-zoster virus can be transmitted to individuals who have not had chickenpox before, leading to the development of chickenpox, not shingles.

Q: Can stress increase the risk of shingles recurrence?

A: Yes, chronic stress and ongoing psychological pressure may increase the risk of shingles recurrence. By effectively managing stress, you can reduce the likelihood of subsequent outbreaks.

Q: Can shingles spread to other parts of the body?

A: Shingles typically affects a specific area of the body, following the distribution of a nerve. However, in rare cases, the shingles rash can spread to other areas.

Q: Is shingles more common in certain populations?

A: Shingles can affect individuals of all ages, but it is more common in older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems.

Q: Can stress affect the length and severity of a shingles outbreak?

A: Stress can potentially prolong the duration and increase the severity of a shingles outbreak, as it weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off the infection.


In conclusion, stress can indeed trigger the development of shingles. Chronic stress and stressful life events can weaken the immune system, increase inflammation, and reactivate the varicella-zoster virus responsible for causing shingles. While stress alone may not directly cause shingles, it can play a significant role in its outbreak and severity. By managing stress effectively through various techniques and adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce the risk and severity of shingles occurrences. If you suspect that you may be experiencing shingles, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Take control of your stress levels and prioritize your well-being to minimize the chances of experiencing a shingles outbreak.

For more valuable information related to stress, its impact on health, and various other conditions, be sure to explore our other articles. Knowledge is power, and understanding the connection between stress and shingles empowers you to take proactive steps toward a healthier, stress-free life.


  • Source 1: [Link]
  • Source 2: [Link]
  • Source 3: [Link]

Leave a Comment