Can You Die from Shingles?

Whether or not death can result through shingles is a question that most sufferers ask. The disease is painful, and it is caused by varicella zoster virus, the same herpes virus which causes chicken pox. It is a virus which starts with chicken pox, an initial infectious stage, which is then a dormant stage follows. This is a common thing like in other herpes viruses. After that, without any warning, the virus is active again. As shingles is not common in children, it can be misdiagnosed as one of the common skin rashes such as poison ivy or impetigo.


The virus lives in the nerve tissue, with the outbreak of shingles starting with numbness, itching, tingling or severe pain at the back, the chest or around the eyes and nose. The facial and eye nerves can also be affected in rare cases, which may lead to outbreaks on the face, around the mouth, neck, and scalp, around and inside the ear, or on the nose. About 20 out of every 100 people with a history of chicken pox will have shingles eventually, and the reactivation of that virus is always possible in those who have a weak immune system, especially those who are more than 50 years old, or who have HIV.


Is it Possible to Die from Shingles?


Shingles is not really life-threatening, but the complications related to it are what make it to be dangerous to an extent of causing death. For instance, the people who have weak immune systems are at risk of having the disease spreading throughout the body, affecting the kidneys, central nervous system and lungs, which means that the immune-compromised person is at risk of death through the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus.


Shingles is also dangerous during pregnancy. For instance, if a pregnant mother contracts the varicella zoster virus during the first 30 weeks of pregnancy, her child is at great risk of having serious birth defects, a condition known as congenital varicella syndrome. Chicken pox may also be developed by a child born to a mother who has contracted the virus few days after birth, and the condition could be life-threatening. However, the same risks are not faced by a mother who develops shingles when pregnancy, as opposed to contracting the varicella zoster for the first time.


Prevention of Shingles


Shingles can be prevented if the risk of death through complications is to be avoided, and vaccine can do this. For instance, Zostavax is a shingles vaccine which prevents shingles, and can be administered as a one-time dose to adults of at least 60 years of age. A chicken pox vaccine like Varivax does not prevent shingles directly, as children who are given the chicken pox vaccine are still likely to shingles even if they have never developed chicken pox. However, they have a reduced risk of developing shingles than the children who have never taken the chicken pox vaccine.

1 comment
  1. john
    Oct 31st, 2013 at 18:23 | #1

    I’ve had shingles now for 2 days, it started out feeling like fiber glass in my face.
    I got chicken pox around age 8, I am now 30 years old.

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