Chickenpox (Varicella)

  • Medical Author:
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are the possible complications of chickenpox?

Complications can and do occur from chickenpox. Infection of the open pox sore by bacteria can injure the skin, sometimes causing scarring, especially if the patient scratches the inflamed area. Bacterial skin infection is, in fact, the most common complication of chickenpox in children. The next most common complications in children affect the central nervous system and include a disorder of the cerebellar portion of the brain (cerebellar ataxia with wobbliness, dizziness, tremor, and altered speech), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain with headaches, seizures, and decreased consciousness), damaged nerves (nerve palsies), and Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal combination of liver and brain disease that can be associated with aspirin. (Children with fever should not take aspirin.) Especially serious complications can occur in patients with AIDS, lupus, leukemia, and cancer. Complications also occur in people taking immune-suppressing drugs, such as cortisone-related medications. Newborn infants whose mothers have chickenpox in the last trimester of pregnancy are at increased risk from the disease. If the mother develops the disease from five days before to two days after delivery, the fatality rate for the baby is up to 30%.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015
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