Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that typically causes a painful rash on one side of the body. However, it is possible for someone to experience shingles without the accompanying rash. This is known as zoster sine herpete.
Zoster sine herpete can be tricky to diagnose since it doesn’t present with the classic shingles rash. Instead, people with this condition may experience intense pain or burning usually on one side of the face, neck, or trunk. They may also have tingling, itching, sensitivity to touch, or numbness in the affected area. These symptoms can be similar to other conditions such as nerve damage, sciatica, or a herniated disc, making it important to see a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis.
The cause of zoster sine herpete is the same as shingles: the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once someone has chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the nerve cells and can reactivate years later as shingles. In the case of zoster sine herpete, the virus reactivates but instead of producing a rash, it affects the nerves.
Treatment for zoster sine herpete may include antiviral medications to help reduce the length and severity of the symptoms, as well as pain-relieving medications if necessary. It’s also important to manage stress, eat a healthy diet, get enough rest, and exercise regularly to help keep the immune system strong and prevent future outbreaks.
Shingles without a rash, or zoster sine herpete, can be a painful and challenging condition to diagnose. It is caused by the same virus as shingles but affects the nerves instead of the skin. Seeking medical attention and promptly treating symptoms can help alleviate pain and prevent complications.
Is there a link between COVID-19 and shingles?
There have been some reports and studies suggesting a possible link between COVID-19 and shingles. Although more research is needed to confirm this association and understand the underlying mechanisms, the hypothesis is based on several factors.
Firstly, both COVID-19 and shingles are caused by viruses that can affect the nervous system. COVID-19 is caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which primarily affects the respiratory tract but can also invade other organs and tissues, including the nervous system. Shingles, on the other hand, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the nerve cells and can reactivate later in life, causing shingles.
Secondly, there is some evidence that COVID-19 can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections such as shingles. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in January 2021 reported a higher incidence of shingles cases among COVID-19 patients compared to the general population. The study also found that shingles cases were more likely to occur in patients with severe COVID-19, those who received corticosteroids or immunomodulators, and those who were hospitalized for a longer duration.
Thirdly, there may be a direct interaction between the two viruses, as some studies have suggested that VZV may be activated by the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the body. One such study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in August 2020 reported two cases of shingles that occurred shortly after the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, suggesting a possible association between the two conditions.
However, it is important to note that these findings are still preliminary and do not prove a causal relationship between COVID-19 and shingles. Other factors such as age, stress, and underlying health conditions may also contribute to the risk of shingles, and more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms linking the two conditions.
While there are some indications of a possible link between COVID-19 and shingles, further studies are needed to confirm this association and determine the underlying causes and mechanisms. Anyone concerned about their risk of shingles should speak to their healthcare provider and consider getting vaccinated against the virus.