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The Breasts & Shingles

By Thomas Urbauer ; Updated July 27, 2017

One million people in the United States come down with shingles every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women with shingles often experience breast pain when the rash that is characteristic of this condition spreads to the skin of one breast, states the National Institutes of Health. Always consult a physician to rule out conditions including infection, cancer and pregnancy, all of which typically cause breast tenderness.

Facts

In those who have previously had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus remains in the body, sometimes reemerging years later in the form of shingles. according to the MayoClinic.com. Shingles causes pain, itching, rash and blisters. The rash often occurs on half the back, wrapping around to the side and chest. Blisters break and scab after several days. Fever, headache and fatigue frequently accompany shingles. When shingles occurs on the breast area, women experience intense pain, burning and itching.

Risks

Any person who has had chickenpox has the potential to develop shingles. The two main risk factors for developing shingles are age--shingles occurs most commonly in those age 50 and older--and a weakened immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic.com. Several conditions cause lowered immunity including HIV/AIDS, cancer and certain medications.

Post-Herpetic Neuralgia

Approximately 20 percent of people afflicted by shingles experience pain in previously affected areas after the original shingles infection has ended, a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia, according to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This causes long-term breast pain if the skin over the breast was afflicted during the shingles outbreak. This complication develops when damaged nerves mistakenly send pain signals to the brain. Pain medications provide temporary relief until the condition subsides.

Bacterial Infection

A secondary bacterial infection develops following shingles if the skin is not well cared for, particularly at the blistering phase. This causes pain, redness and inflammation in the breast tissue if this is the location of the bacterial infection. Address bacterial infections by thoroughly cleaning the area and using oral or topical medications, such as antibiotics as prescribed by your physician.

Treatment

Shingles heals on its own within several weeks. Treatment focuses mostly on pain relief though antivirals are typically used. Narcotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and topical numbing medications provide pain relief. Address breast pain with prescribed medications, over-the-counter pain relief medications and antihistamines. Home treatments such as ice packs and cool baths provide relief as well. Keep the breast skin clean and dry aside from topical medications applied to the area to promote healing and to avoid bacterial infection.

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