Is Shingles Life Threatening?

Shingles can be life threatening if you have HIV, diabetes or other illnesses that decreases the strength of your immune system. If you have cancer and are receiving treatments, this also may increase the risk of severe health issues caused by shingles. Having shingles while pregnant can place your baby at high risk for developing shingles within the first two years of his or her life. Those who have the shingles illness and are 50 years of age or older, can be at risk as well. At any time when your immune system is weak, it will be harder to fight off the shingles illness, especially while trying to combat another sickness, such as the flu or something more severe like AIDS.

Diseases Shingles Cause

There are other harmful cases that can come about when diagnosed with shingles, such as the following diseases:

  • Secondary Bacterial Infection - This occurs when the blisters caused by shingles become infected with a secondary bacterium, which can lead to scarring.
  • Paralysis - Motor paralysis can occur near the areas that are affected by shingles. Over 50% of those that are affected by this fully recover, while another 30% show significant improvements.
  • Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome - This results in pain and blistering in the ear as well as the throat, causing lost of taste. This usually takes months to recover from.
  • Herpes Zoster Meningoencepalitis - This is a very rare condition that causes inflammation in the brain. Most recover quickly and fully from this condition.
  • Recurrent Shingles - This is a second occurrence of the shingles illness, which is rare. Those with HIV, and other illnesses that cause the immune system to weaken, are 9 times more likely to get shingles more than once. This can cause organs to become affected, becoming life threatening.
  • Post-Herpetic Neuralgia - This is caused by lasting nerve damage caused by shingles outbreaks. It causes pain for months or even years after the blisters and rashes from shingles disappear.

Keeping Away from Shingles

To help avoid getting shingles, it is important to live a stress-free lifestyle. It has shown that those who are depressed or have anxiety are more likely to be diagnosed with shingles. It also helps to stay out of contact with those who have had chickenpox or shingles. Vaccines are also available to help prevent shingles and reduce the pain if you already have it. Shingles is contagious, so it's best to keep away from children, infants and pregnant women.

The Elderly at Risk

If you are over the age of 50 and have had the chickenpox virus, then you are at risk at developing shingles. At elderly ages, your immune system is weakened. Most cases of shingles, 70%, are people who are over the age of 50. And 50% of that number is over the age of 80.

I had Chickenpox, Will I get Shingles?

The shingles illness occurs in individuals who have had chickenpox, more likely if it occurred under the age of one. But not everyone who has had the chickenpox will obtain shingles. There are some factors that help it along, such as stress, old age and immune system deficiencies.

HIV and Shingles

Because viruses and diseases like HIV, AIDS and diabetes cause the immune system to "crash", it will be hard to keep the chickenpox virus from reactivating, which then causes shingles. Even those with cancer and are getting chemotherapy are at risk of getting shingles. There are many risks that come along with the shingles illness, so the healthier you are before you get it, the lower the risks. If you were already sick with a terminal illness or something smaller such as the flu, your immune system will have a hard time ridding your body of shingles.


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