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Avatar universal

Recurrent Shingles

I am a young healthy (34yo) female.  I had my first outbreak of shingles when I was 20 years old and would break out about once a year around the same time and in the same general area.  From 2005 to this past December 2007 I was outbreak free, but had the rash and symptoms reoccur in the same area only with more generalized pain in my right thigh versus the normal localized pain on my right hip.  Since that outbreak I have had 2 more outbreaks of shingles the most recent starting today.  I did notice that with Valtrex the last time my symptoms resolved much more quickly.  I'm wondering why I am having such frequent outbreaks and has anyone else encountered this?
35 Responses
Avatar universal

I do understand how discomforting this can be. Shingles may recur or may be reactivated. The herpes zoster virus simply resides within the body. They are contained by the body's immune system. At one point, they may reactivate and present as the rash that we commonly see.

"Shingles is a skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus responsible for these conditions is called the Varicella zoster virus (VZV). After an individual has chickenpox, this virus lives in the nervous system and is never fully cleared from the body. Under certain circumstances, such as emotional stress, immune deficiency (from AIDS or chemotherapy), or with cancer, the virus reactivates causing shingles. In most cases, however, a cause for the reactivation of the virus is never found."


The rash of shingles usually recurs in the same area because of the dermatomal or skin pattern the nerve follows. I would suggest that you have this assessed by an infectious disease specialist. This is contagious and it is important to observe frequent hand washing and to keep the affected areas covered. It is necessary that you take antiviral medications during the first 2-3 days of rash manifestation.

Shingles itself is not contagious. If you come into contact with  (or I should say if the blisters come into contact)  with another person who HAS NOT had the chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine  they will most likely develop/ acquire  chickenpox.  Someone that has had chickenpox or the vaccine CANNOT acquire shingles from you.  Because, they already have the virus living inside of their body in hibernation. Their own immune system/body/central nervous system decides when they will or will not get shingles.  
Avatar universal
I am 32 and have had recurrent shingles on my right eye area.  They are quite painful.  I am an otherwise healthy person, but if I am under a tremendous amount of stress I will have an outbreak.  I just get them treated with an anti-viral and move on with life.
Avatar universal
Hi bubba I also suffer from recurring shingles in my right eye ( about 5 years) I don't have a rash in or on my eye but it feels like there is glass in there every time I blink! Today however I've developed the familiar tingle and blisters have appaeared behind my right ear and in my right nostril and right sudeif my mouth - very attractive!! I was wondering if you suffer from any dizziness between or during your attacks? I have had all kinds of bllod tests done even an MRI as they wondered if my symptoms were ms all came back clear but I do worry what long term damage shingles will cause me. Hansy74  
Avatar universal
I've had recurring shingles since I was about 15! I'm only 24 now.  

The outbreaks I can remember (I recently made a list)
  right cheek & jaw - June '10
  left jaw & neck - May '10
  right cheek - June '09
  left back of neck - Jan '09
  right trunk 3x - Aug '07, 2006, 1999

These outbreaks usually occur during times of stress or if I get run down but this is getting ridiculous! I'm generally not an overly stressed person. The pain I get beforehand also varies. Most recently the week beforehand I was experiencing sharp chest pain. The outbreak prior to that a stabbing pain in my left shoulder-blade that made it difficult to move or breath. Sometimes, there is no pain at all and sometimes it is sharp pains in the stomach area (no prior pain in the area where the rash develops).

Not sure if there's any relation but I have been tested for autoimmune diseases since I was about 15 as well (when my hair started to fall out). I have autoimmune in my family (mother, aunt, cousin). I have been diagnosed with narcolepsy, a goiter, pulmonary hypertension, a heart murmur, reynaud's phenomenon and had low positive ANA test. But my thyroid blood tests always come back fine.
I've seen so many doctors and gotten no results/support that I just stopped going. Trying to get healthy is exhausting ...
Avatar universal
Hi Louloubell, I have an awful time with this too! Mine is in my hand and for many embarrassing years I thought is was the simplex virus, as I'd never been tested, my new doctor though, today has told me it is not and is herpes zoster! I torture myself over having this it is horrible and embarrassing and nobody wants to admit they have herpes! Mine flares up when I am stressed or overdoing it a bit and I usually don't realize how stressed I am til I get it! Also, I never used medications for it until last year but had the most painful outbreak I think I ever had so the next time I got Valtrex and it lasted just a few days and a lot less pain. I start a new job next week and I recognised a pending outbreak yesterday and started taking Valtrex today, so fingers crossed it will work for me. Also I was born with a non functioning thyroid so don't know if this has anything to do with me getting outbreaks approx 3 times a year???
Avatar universal
I am in my 5th outbrake of shingles in my left eye.  I have lost alot of vision. Have been taking valtrex for the past 5 months, and I am still having another outbrake.. I never get sick and just don t know what to do. My doctor is saying , as I keep having the outbrakes, the scar tissue will continue to build up, and eventually I will need a cornia transplant. And with the transplant the virus can still begin to affect the new cornia.
Avatar universal
I am 39 and have just been diagnosed with 4th bout of shingles, fed up.  I am a nurse so work is stressful and busy at times, so how do I reduce my stress levels and NO I am not leaving my career.  I eat quite healthy but don't have the energy to do too much exercise as I av OA and am now going thru the menopause.  I also av a lot of allergies, so am worried about taking certain medications.  Can anyone give me some serious advice how to try and reduce it recurring and coping with having shingles AGAIN. I empathise with u all, especially when people say u can't have it this frequent.  I av been quite lucky, only 4 times in 3 years and only have rash on shoulder, not on face.


Avatar universal
I am 39 and have just been diagnosed with 4th bout of shingles, fed up.  I am a nurse so work is stressful and busy at times, so how do I reduce my stress levels and NO I am not leaving my career.  I eat quite healthy but don't have the energy to do too much exercise as I av OA and am now going thru the menopause.  I also av a lot of allergies, so am worried about taking certain medications.  Can anyone give me some serious advice how to try and reduce it recurring and coping with having shingles AGAIN. I empathise with u all, especially when people say u can't have it this frequent.  I av been quite lucky, only 4 times in 3 years and only have rash on shoulder, not on face.


Avatar universal
While it is certain that Zoster does return in some, it is most unlikely to do so in most. Probably what we are looking at here is 'Herpes simplex' in a 'zosteriform' distribution.
Avatar universal
Do you have scleroderma in your family?
Avatar universal
That doesn't sound right considering all the research on recurrent shingles outbreaks along the same nerve and the new vaccine.

I'm pretty sure a second outbreak is very common.
As well, my doctor says that a zoster pattern on the scalp is almost never hsv1. It's incredibly rare to get hsv1 very far from the mouth.
Avatar universal
Zosteriform herpes simplex

This reference should answer you.
Avatar universal

In conclusion, as demonstrated in this
case report, recurrent “zosteriform” eruptions caused
by HSV infection can mimic herpes zoster infection.
We recommend the use of laboratory test for accurate
diagnosis, in order for proper treatment and isolation
protocols to be instituted.

Avatar universal
Kind of obnoxious that you, who have never seen any of these people, or me for that matter, can just decide it's simplex 1 or 2. Do you think we diagnosed this ourselves on WebMD? I've been to my primary doctor, who took a culture for complete lab testing, and two Neurologists specializing in PHN during recurring outbreaks for additional testing. I had my first outbreak after my second lumpectomy. I thought I had poison ivy, after a month I saw my primary. By then the damage was done. Who gets shingles at 35? My second outbreak was post mastectomy in the hospital, and once I conviced the doctors it wasn't a reaction to the antibiotic, valtrex cleared it in 2 days (after 3 days of trying different antibiotics). Every major stress or procedure since has been a recurrence. Just had knee microfracturing done, and guess what? Shingles two days later! Now I'm 39. The truth is they know about zilch about the how and why this happens in certain groups of younger people, but it does. Everything they knew in the last 10 years has been "edited." For those of you also suffering, you know the feeling, when it's starting. Find a primary willing to keep a 10 day course of Valtrex as a call in or with refills on hand. Sooner you start, lesser the suffering and scarring.
Avatar universal
alot of the same story, new illness, another outbreak. Every specialist says I have an autoimmune problem, but no 2 agree on which one. I just found a primary willing to call in a valtrex rx when I feel it happening, or know it's gonna. If I am going to have a surgery or prolonged pain or high stress-I just know. I have heard everything from fibromyalgia to reynaud's to lupus. I thought I had poison ivy my first time, and let it go almost 5 weeks before I went to the doc for cortisone-lol. I had never even HEARD of shingles. By then the damage was done. Sooner you start antivirals, less pain and scarring-and chance of PHN later.
Avatar universal
Another reason for proper diagnosis is the
risk of instituting improper treatment, which can cause
Incorrect diagnosis of HSV infection as VZV infection
will therefore eventually lead to increased inconvenience,
cost and time incurred by both patients, hospitals and
(8)8. Kalman CM, Laskin OL. Herpes zoster and zosteriform herpes
simplex virus infections in immunocompetent adults. Am J Med 1986;
Kindly check with your doc.
Best wishes.
Avatar universal
While I am only addressing the diagnostic dilemma of a doctor working in the third world, and the economics involved here, a definitely diagnosed recurrent zoster patient,as I understand can get a zoster vaccine to prevent further recurrence.
Also I am well aware that recurrent zoster in the immunocompetent is more recognized today than ever before.
I thank you for addressing the issue here.
Avatar universal
And sorry if I have been too technical,and not addressing to the problem you have faced and apologies if I have been less sensitive.
My best wishes.
Avatar universal
You realize herpes zoster is shingles, right? That is the scientific term is all.
Avatar universal
I feel your pain. When I was little i had an outbreak next to eye and my previous doctor told me it was herpes zoster. My current doctor told mr it has to be hsv. I had a culture done and swore it said zoster. Next time i have an outbreak i want my current doctor to do a culture. The sun causes many if my outbreaks:(
11656207 tn?1420209221
I had shingles for the 1st time in 2010, I was 54 at the time. Now, last month I had a second outbreak on my neck which was short lived as I took meds and used a fantastic gel which has comfrey in it. Stops the itching and clears up the rash for me FAST! However, a week after the neck rash went away a rash popped up on my right hand. Then a day later another rash showed up on my left arm and left leg. This is too weird! I am clearing up the rashes quickly with my comfrey gel but am concerned about the recurrence of this so quickly and in several areas. I was told by the doctor to get a shingles shot as soon as this clears up. Hopefully it will without another outbreak somewhere else on my person!
Avatar universal
Same thing here too. 4th time and it is following bronchitis this time. It seems like anything from stress to a cold bring mine out.... I am tired and frustrated at the lack of research and treatment. I am going to speak with my primary care physician and ask for refills. Thanks for the idea. Hope you are well!
Avatar universal
Hello, I am searching online for others who suffer from constant shingles outbreaks.  I have had reoccurring shingles on my lower left back, which seems to travel about 12 inches, from my upper butt cheek, then higher on my back.  I have had this condition for many years.  Typical outbreaks occur 2-3 weeks apart.  On rare occasions, I might go for a 6-8 weeks without a breakout.  Pretty painful event with onset pain in my left leg and hip nerves and discomfort in my lower left back.  Anyone else exhibit this sort of frequency?
Avatar universal
Wow... They just keep pumping you full of valtrex and it does nothing but worsen your condition it seems. I'd find a new doctor. That vaccine is intended for people of at least 50 years of age or older. They do not have a proper vaccination that has proven to be significantly effective in the prevention and or treatment of shingles in younger adults, from what articles I have read. And why would they keep administering it... Valtrex is supposed to be a one-time vaccination. Recurrent shingles as they are referring to it is obviously a mutated strand of the virus which they have no idea how to treat as of yet. These asshats who diagnose and vaccinate you weren't even aware that shingles has the potential to become frequently recurrent and/or affect adults under the age of 50 more often than assumed until numerous people were reporting similar symptoms.
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