What women must know to stop a second bout of shingles

April 12, 2011
Volume 08    |   Issue 16

If you’ve ever had the herpes zoster virus, otherwise known as shingles, you may believe that at least you’ll never get this extremely painful condition again. Once is more than enough for one of the most excruciating illnesses you’re likely to ever experience. A painful skin rash with blisters occurs when stress activates the dormant chickenpox virus. But there are some things about this virus that women must know — especially if they want to avoid a second bout with it.

It’s conventional wisdom that once you contract this virus, your immune system will protect you from another episode for the rest of your life. Well, a single episode is not always the case. You can get shingles multiple times. In fact, this is more common than you may think.

Originally, recurrences appeared to be limited to people with suppressed immune systems. At least, that’s what doctors saw. Then researchers at Olmsted Medical Center discovered something different. When they examined the medical records of around 1,700 patients with a single past episode and healthy immune systems, they found that a number of these people had a second or third case of shingles.

That’s not all they found.

Women were more likely than men to get shingles. And they were also more likely to have a recurrence. A second episode also was more common in people who experienced pain for more than a month after the initial onset.

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Now there’s a shingles vaccine that’s suggested for people over 60, and it’s around 50% effective in preventing an outbreak. But it may not be safe for anyone with a suppressed immune system. And, like all vaccines, it could damage your immune system. Fortunately, you don’t need to take the vaccine. That’s because there are more effective alternatives.

One of the best is l-lysine. This amino acid, found in fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, black beans, and potatoes acts directly on the herpes virus. If you’re over the age of 60 and under a lot of stress, you may want to take 1,500 mg of lysine three times a day for protection — even if you’ve had an outbreak in the past. You can find l-lysine in any health food store.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


B. P. Yawn, P. C. Wollan, M. J. Kurland, J. L. St. Sauver, P. Saddier. Herpes Zoster Recurrences More Frequent Than Previously Reported. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2011; 86 (2): 88 DOI: 10.4065/mcp.2010.0618.

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