Can A Sunburn Cause Shingles?
Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is more commonly known as the virus that causes the chickenpox. Scientists so far have been unable to pinpoint what causes this virus to reactivate and cause an outbreak of shingles, but some theories have been formed.
What do Sunburn and Shingles Have in Common?
Although there is no concrete evidence to support it, scientists have theorized that shingles may be caused by irritation of the area that the varicella zoster virus affected earlier in a person’s life. This theory could be stretched to support the idea of sunburn causing an outbreak of shingles, but it is highly unlikely.
The theory that shingles may be caused by skin irritation is one of the weaker theories related to the cause of shingles. Although the virus does manifest itself as a skin rash, the varicella zoster virus lies dormant within nerves around the spinal cord. Something as superficial as a sunburn or some other sort of skin irritation is unlikely to affect these nerves in such a way to reactivate a dormant virus.
Other theories surrounding the cause of shingles include high stress levels, fatigue, radiation, and diseases such as HIV that negatively affect the immune system. All of these theories have more scientific evidence to support them than the theory of skin injury does.
Although scientists have theorized that skin injury such as sunburn may be the cause of shingles, it is a theory that has many holes in it. The location of the nerves that the varicella zoster virus lies dormant in, the mildness of the injury that even the most severe of sunburns causes, and the fact that chickenpox (the most common manifestation of the varicella zoster virus) cannot be caused by skin injury, make it very unlikely that the theory actually holds an truth to it. It’s always a good idea to try and prevent sunburns before they happen though.