Can a shingles appear be on the opposite side of the body from the first outbreak?

4 answers | Last updated: Jan 05, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

can a shingles reoccurance be on the opposite side of the body from the first outbreak? Is the left side of the head and neck included with the nerves that are under the left are(right under the arm pit area)

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. After you've had chicken pox initially, the virus will lie dormant in the nerves in spinal cord and brain. At any time, the virus can be reactivated, causing a painful rash (shingles) on one side of the body. So, to answer your first question, even after the first outbreak shingles can occur on the opposite side of the body, as it really depends on where the virus is.

Shingles in the head or face is always concerning, as the virus can cause a rash near your eye. If the virus gets into the eye and is not treated properly, this can lead to permanent eye damage. If you have the rash near your eye, you should see an opthalmologist as soon as possible.

Your 2nd question is about the head and neck being along the same nerve as under the left arm. The left side of your head and the neck are along the Cervical 2/3 nerves, while the underside of the left arm is along Cervical 5/6 or Thoracic 1, depending on where your rash is located. So, no, the head/neck is not included in the left arm nerve.

Since you have had shingles twice, you should consider having the shingles vaccine once your rash goes away. This can help reduce the risk of shingles in adults age 60 and older who've had chickenpox. The shingles vaccine cannot guarantee you won't get shingles ever again. But the vaccine may reduce the severity of the rash, while reducing the risk of postherpetic neuralgia, which is a painful condition that happens in the nerve once the shingles rash has disappeared.

Good luck!

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

No, I had shingles on my chest on the left side, I was treated with oral medication and within a week of finishing my medication my left side had cleared up but now its across my chest and on my right that normal for it to reoccur almost right away? Also, I have a pregnant daughter...I had stayed away from her while I had my first outbreak but went around her in between outbreaks because I thought it was cleared the baby safe? and yes my daughter had chicken pox as a child....

Corrieva answered...

I am a 38 year old female. A mother of four children ranging from 22- 12. I have had some weird health issues. In 2008 they removed a Thymoma from my chest, it was B9. Back up to 2003 after I had my last child I started having pain, weakness in the muscles, extreme fatigue. Fibromyalgia was my diagnosis and I took one percocet a day and that would take my pain away. So fast forward to 2016. I've Been getting reoccurring bronchitis and have been bed ridden for the last six months um the fist time on my birthday, I was in the hospital diagnosed yet again with Bronchitis. I still have it, even though I've taken antibiotics it's been (4) times since October 9. Late October I presented with Shingles on my left eye and left nostiriI went to the hospital and was diagnosed with Shingles, given pain meds and Antivirals on the third day I had a Shingle on the right shoulder blade. It was huge and then trickling down my right arm what looked like Chicken pox. Four doctors could not explain what was happening or why, . It was left at that. Being in pain bed ridden I felt better for about a week after a long process and then sure enough I get fatigue, extreme body pain and Shingles have returned on left upper outside thigh. I went to Urgent Care and was diagnosed last month again with Bronchitis. Both diagnosed at the same time. I take more Antivirals and the ZPac (Antibiotics) for the Bronchitis. I Started to feel like I was coming back to life. I was able to clean my carpets. Short-lived I have Bronchitis again and am noticing on my left thigh right below the Shingles that just cleared up is a group of what I believe to be another start of Shingles. I'm in a bad spot. In between all of these diagnosis I have had a 5 minute seizure before the Shingles. I also had these lesions that went up my calves and down my arm and they branched out. I went to the doctor meanwhile my PCP left and I'm moving from doctor to doctor. I get this one pretty insightful doctor that was a temp there at my old clinic and he looked at the lesions for at least 20 minutes and said he wished he could get skin biopsies on the lesions because I was sent home with a diagnosis of Polyarteritis nodosa. No doctor since has paid attention to this diagnosis. I am stuck. I need some help, insight to what possibly could be going wrong. I got gap insurance so I had to get a new PCP and the one they gave me already isn't excepting patient's. I called and found another doctor but have to have the Insurance change doctors. I'm stuck and I don't know what to do. I am also still battling excessive coughing ( green) plem all the time. I'm on a rescue inhaler, I have a nebulizer and won't take the Steroids because it lowers the immune system even more. I belief my immune system is compromised, very low. One more thing, I get abdominal pain with it. I have been told by my Rheumatologist to get a referral to see an immunologists. The problem is I don't have all this time. I'm getting sicker and sicker. Anybody? Your advice is appreciated. I'm scared!!!

Chas79 answered...

When i read your story it sounded like i was reading about me minus the seizure. I also keep bronchitis I'm on2 steroid inhalers, a rescue inhaler, and the nebulizer. I'm on my third out break of shingles( this one is pretty severe), and I also have fibromyalgia. I stay weak and tired all the time. Not only am I fatigued but i stay nauseated also. I'm trying to get answers myself and it seems like one dr is putting me off onto the next and so on. I hope you find answers soon. I know how aggravating it is. By the way I'm 37 yrs old. Our stories are almost identical!