Shingles: ‘Long-term’ use of corticosteroids could trigger infection


Shingles causes a painful rash that follows the reactivation of the chickenpox virus – the varicella-zoster virus. The reactivation of this virus can be caused by several factors, including the use of steroid medication over the “long term”.

Mayo Clinic explains that one common corticosteroid medication called prednisone may “increase your risk of developing shingles”.

Steroids, in the short term, are used as an anti-inflammatory medication. They are often consumed to treat arthritis and asthma.

A short course of prednisolone may even be prescribed for people suffering from shingles to reduce the pain of the rash – although many recognise that using steroids for shingles is controversial.

Researchers have known for a long time that high doses of corticosteroids are a risk factor for severe wild-type varicella-zoster virus.

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If you experience side effects from corticosteroids, you should speak to your doctor.

The NHS explained: “Stopping suddenly can cause your adrenal gland, which makes important hormones for the body, to stop working. This is known as adrenal insufficiency.”

Before a shingles rash, you may experience a headache or generally feel unwell.

You may also experience a tingling or painful sensation in areas of the skin.


It explained: “The risk of spreading VZV [varicella-zoster virus] to others is low if you cover the shingles rash.

“People with shingles cannot spread the virus before their rash blisters appear or after the rash crusts.”

The health body particularly recommends avoiding contact with vulnerable people such as pregnant women who have not had chickenpox, premature infants and people who are immunocompromised.

If you have shingles, you can safely take paracetamol to ease the pain. Your skin can be painful even after your skin rash has cleared but the pain will clear up over time.

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