Shingles and Pregnancy

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Shingles in pregnancy facts

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  • Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that results from reactivation of infection with the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the virus that causes chickenpox.
  • The rash of shingles can be extremely painful and typically occurs over the area of one nerve.
  • Antiviral medications are used to treat shingles. These drugs are safe to use in pregnancy.
  • Other medications to manage shingles can include acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) for pain relief or antihistamines for itching.
  • Complications from shingles occur most often in older adults and are less common in pregnant women.
  • Shingles in pregnancy typically heals without long-term problems for mother or baby.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by reactivation of prior infection with the same virus that previously caused chickenpox, known as varicella zoster virus (VZV). VZV belongs to the herpes family of viruses, but it is not the same virus that causes genital herpes or cold sores on the mouth. When a person is infected with VZV in childhood, they typically develop chickenpox, but after the illness resolves the VZV lives dormant 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 and causes the skin and nerve inflammation known as shingles.

Shingles occurs most commonly in people over the age of 60, but anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk, including pregnant women. It has been estimated that up to 1,000,000 cases of shingles occur each year in the U.S.

What do shingles look like?

Picture of Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Picture of Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/20/2014

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Shingles and Pregnancy - Symptoms and Diagnosis Question: Please describe the symptoms that led to a diagnosis of shingles while you were pregnant.
Shingles and Pregnancy - Treatment Question: How did you treat shingles pain and itching during your pregnancy?
Shingles and Pregnancy - Prevention Question: How did you prevent the risk of shingles during your pregnancy?
Shingles and Pregnancy - Experience Question: Please describe your experience with shingles during pregnancy.
Shingles and Pregnancy - Antiviral Medication Question: If you were prescribed antiviral medication for shingles during pregnancy, what was prescribed and how effective were they?
Shingles and Pregnancy - Pain Medication Question: If you were prescribed pain medication for shingles during pregnancy, what was prescribed and how effective were they?
Shingles and Pregnancy - Antihistamines Question: If you were prescribed antihistamines for shingles during pregnancy, what was prescribed and how effective were they?
Shingles and Pregnancy - Complications Question: What complications did you experience with shingles during pregnancy?

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