If you had chickenpox as a child, you can be at risk for a shingles outbreak later on in life. Shingles are a painful rash with blisters. There are triggers that play a role in a shingles outbreak. While you cannot control some risk factors, like age, you can avoid other triggers.
In this article, we will explore what triggers a shingles outbreak. We’ll also look at lesser-known factors that can increase your risk of shingles.
Common Risk Factors for Shingles Outbreak
Older age is a risk factor, as most cases of shingles occur in individuals who are 50 years of age or older.
A weakened immune system is also a risk factor for shingles outbreak. Conditions such as HIV or cancer increase this risk even more. Furthermore, cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation are potential risk factors as well.
Some medications may trigger shingles outbreaks. People who take corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive drugs are likely to get shingles.
Shingles and the Stress Factor
Psychological stress is another common risk factor for a shingles outbreak. Some studies found negative life events and increased visits to mental health professionals occur before a person has a shingles outbreak. Although research shows mixed results. Even day-to-day stress can contribute to developing this painful rash.
What is the connection between stress and a shingles outbreak?
Stress is a factor that has a significant impact on the immune system. Recent studies in psycho-neuro-immunology support the concept that emotional stress connects to the nervous and immune systems and hormones. Stress can cause inflammation, as confirmed by increased numbers of certain immune cells. This inflammation has a negative impact on the whole body and weakens the immune system.
Stress can cause many physical reactions in the body including:
- Abnormal blood sugar levels
- Increased weight
- Chest pain
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in sex drive
- Alcohol abuse
Emotionally, stress correlates with anxiety and depression. It can also aggravate virtually any mental health condition.
Shingles and general infections are more likely to occur when the immune system is weak. The severity of infection correlates with how the immune system functions. For this reason, the elderly and immunocompromised have a higher risk of infections.
Most people will experience just one episode of a shingles outbreak in their lives. However, some people may get it twice or even more.
More Potential Triggers of a Shingles Outbreak
A Romanian study evaluated over 150 participates over a five-year period. They looked at various factors associated with a shingles outbreak.
Researchers confirmed old age is a risk factor. There weren’t significant gender differences in the study. Both men and women were almost equally affected. Hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes were conditions likely affected by shingles. Psychological stress was also correlated with a shingles outbreak.
Another possible risk factor is family history. It appears that an individual is more likely to have shingles if the relatives had shingles.
It is also possible to contract the virus from someone who has shingles. However, you will experience chickenpox, which can then later on become shingles.
Could Diet and Lifestyle Play a Role in Shingles Outbreaks?
A healthy diet is essential for optimal health. Each and every cell in the body obtains nutrients from our foods.
A study conducted in the UK examined dietary patterns and nutrients and their role in a shingles outbreak. They focused on the following nutrients:
- Vitamins A, B(6), C, and E
- Folic Acid
Researchers concluded there was a strong association between low fruit consumption and shingles. However, they did not find a significant correlation with specific micronutrients.
The study found that individuals who consumed less than one piece of fruit a week were three times more at risk of shingles. They compared this to individuals who consume three or more fruit servings daily.
Scientists believe nutrients from fruits and vegetables work together to maintain immune health. This then prevents a shingles outbreak.
To conclude, the study supports the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. These two groups of foods are part of a healthy diet.
The Mediterranean diet, as one of the most researched diets, is consistently found to promote health. Along with fresh produce, the diet also includes healthy oils, fish, legumes, and lean meat. It also consists of grains, nuts, and seeds. The diet limits red meat, excess sugar, and processed foods.
The Mediterranean diet goes beyond food, though. It also recommends to eat in a relaxed atmosphere and socialize with friends and family. It also allows a glass of red wine with a meal. The diet also encourages regular exercise and staying active.
Preventing a Shingles Outbreak
If you want to prevent a shingles outbreak, talk to your doctor. A vaccine is available for everyone over the age of 50.
Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol should take steps to manage them.
Also, take into account potential triggers you can control. Focus on your diet, managing stress, and exercising regularly.