3 surprising causes of shingles flare ups

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Shingles occur in about 1 million people annually in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 people will develop the condition in their lifetime. It is also more common in people over 50, as the immune system can become less effective with age.

The infection is characterized by a painful rash or small blisters on one side of the body. It’s possible for it to develop more than once. It’s also important to note that shingles can only flare up if you have already been infected, as the virus remains in your body following recovery, Healthline reported.

Here are some causes for the infection.

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Emotional stress has been shown to weaken the immune system, Everyday Health reported. This can occur from chronic life/work stress or the sudden death of a loved one. Stress can also affect pain perception, so a stressed person is more likely to feel the pain of shingles in a more extreme way.


Shingles can flare-up, or reactivate, due to medications. Drugs taken to prevent transplanted organ rejection can increase shingles risk, the Mayo Clinic reported. Continued use of steroids, such as prednisone, which is used to treat inflammation, can also make shingles reactivate.

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COVID-19 vaccination

A small study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Rheumatology, found that six of 491 participants experienced mild shingles for the first time following their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes shingles, but experts say the stress associated with it could be to blame for a flare-up.

“Shingles reactivates when there may be some mild derangement caused by stress and other things like immune-suppressing medications and intercurrent illnesses, which allow the virus to then begin reactivating and producing the shingles,” Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of Queen’s University’s infectious diseases division in Kingston, Ontario told CTV News.

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