Can Sunburn Cause Shingles?


Shingles and Sunburns

Shingles is a viral infection that results in a painful rash of blisters, which typically affects one side of the body. The virus that causes shingles is varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once an individual has had chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus remains dormant in the central nervous system with no visible side effects. However, if something causes the virus to become active again, it results in shingles. One such cause that has been linked to shingles is a sunburn.

Shingles Causes

The exact mechanisms behind what triggers shingles is still a subject of debate. However, it is generally agreed that any form of skin trauma, including sunburn, is a potential cause for a shingles outbreak. Traditional burns or other injuries to the skin are other types of skin trauma related to shingles. Beyond skin trauma, emotional stress and factors that result in a weakened immune system (such as cancer or immunosuppressant medications) are other potential causes of shingles.


If you suspect that sunburn caused a previous shingles outbreak, then it may be necessary to take steps to avoid sunburns in the future. This may require you to limit outdoor activities, or wear proper protection while in the sun. Sunblock, long sleeves and hats are all easy ways to avoid a sunburn, and subsequently, a potential shingles outbreak.

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