Prolonged sun exposure may increase your risk of a shingles recurrence.
Shingles, known medically as herpes zoster, is an acute viral infection that follows nerve pathways, causing small blisterlike lesions. The virus is the same one that causes chickenpox. Shingles lesions can be so painful for many sufferers that they make day-to-day activities difficult. The recurrence of shingles is about as likely as developing the infection in the first place according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but there are some things you can do to help reduce your chances of suffering again.
According to the Mayo Clinic, prescription antiviral medications are commonly prescribed to help speed up the healing process and reduce the risk of complications, though they will not cure shingles on their own. The most common antiviral drugs prescribed for shingles are acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir. Your doctor may also prescribe anticonvulsants like gabapentin, tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, numbing agents like lidocaine or narcotic medications to treat the shingles symptoms.
In an article for CNN.com, Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, writes that the Zostavax vaccine has been shown to prevent recurrences of shingles outbreaks in patients age 60 or older. He notes that the Zostavax vaccine, commonly referred to simply as the shingles vaccine, should be given to patients after the original shingles rash has disappeared. In clinical trials, the Zostavax vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by about 50 percent. In the same trials, the vaccine reduced the risk of a painful condition that often follows shingles rash, known as post herpetic neuralgia, by about 66 percent. The Zostavax vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for those 60 and older.
Using steroid medications like prednisone might increase your chances of getting the shingles virus again, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you need to take steroids for serious medical conditions and have had shingles before, let your doctor know. The risks of a possible shingles recurrence need to be weighed. There may be other treatments that are as effective or nearly as effective that won’t raise your risk of recurrence.
While more research is needed, there are some links between stress and sun exposure and the development and recurrence of the shingles virus according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Try to reduce your stress level any way you can. Take a yoga class, make time to exercise, read a book or walk your dog each day. The activity doesn’t matter, as long as you find it enjoyable and stress-free. Sun exposure may also make shingles recurrence more likely, especially on areas that are exposed to the sun in the summer like arms, hands and legs. Try to limit sun exposure during the brightest, hottest parts of the day, and always use sunscreen or wear protective clothing.