Can Stress Cause Shingles?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • 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.

Ask the experts

Can stress trigger an outbreak of shingles?

Doctor's response

Shingles (also called herpes zoster) occurs as a result of a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) that causes chickenpox. Since the virus never completely leaves the body, it can reactivate in the form of shingles, causing localized rash and nerve irritation. Shingles typically occurs in older people and in people whose immune systems are weakened.

The immune system becomes less efficient with age. It is believed that this is the reason that shingles is more common in the elderly than in younger people, but the exact reason why the virus begins to start reproducing again is unknown. Stress can also weaken the immune system. Studies have shown that persons experiencing significant psychological stress are more prone to infection than those who are not under stress. For this reason, stress can also precipitate outbreaks of shingles in some people.

Quick GuideShingles Rash Pictures, Symptoms, Vaccine Facts

Shingles Rash Pictures, Symptoms, Vaccine Facts

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

"Clinical manifestations of varicella-zoster virus infection: Herpes zoster"
UpToDate.com

Reviewed on 6/15/2017

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