Chest Pain Cause Non Cardiac Herpes Zoster

Chest pain caused by shingles occurs in people who have been infected by herpes zoster (more commonly known as chicken pox). Chest pain caused by shingles is due to a blistering and itchy rash.

Shingles Causes

There are only two shingles causes: a previous infection of herpes zoster or a chicken pox vaccination. Both shingles causes reflect the curious nature of the herpes zoster virus (and indeed all viruses in the herpes family).

Once a person is infected with herpes zoster, the virus remains in the body, lying dormant in nerve cells. After the initial chicken pox outbreak, herpes zoster can lie dormant for decades.

Only when the body’s immune system weakens will herpes zoster re-erupt, causing shingles. Diseases that weaken the immune system (such as HIV and AIDS), immunosuppressant medications (such as chemotherapy drugs) and radiation therapy can all contribute to a shingles outbreak.

Aging also increases the risk of shingles symptoms, as the immune system tends to weaken with age. Over 50 percent of all shingles cases occur in patients who are more than 60 years old.

Shingles Symptoms

Shingles symptoms are defined by a blistering rash and chest pain. The rash usually stretches from the middle of the back and around one side of the chest to the breastbone. Shingles rashes may also affect the:

  • face
  • neck
  • scalp.

A shingles rash begins as red bumps, which develop into fluid-filled blisters after a few days. The blisters from shingles are what cause the chest pain. After about a week to 10 days, the blisters crust over and fall off.

Chest pain caused by shingles symptoms is described as stinging and burning. Shingles blisters can be excruciatingly painful and also extremely itchy.

Chest pain caused by shingles symptoms does not necessarily disappear with the rash. Shingles can cause pain that can last up to three months.

Other shingles symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain
  • chills
  • extreme sensitivity to touch
  • fever
  • headaches
  • itchiness
  • numbness
  • stomach upsets
  • tingling sensations.

Complications of Shingles Symptoms

Shingles symptoms can cause a number of long-term complications. It is not unusual for skin affected by the rash to change color after the rash clears. Skin changes are usually temporary, but severe cases of shingles can cause permanent changes in skin color.

If shingles affect the face, symptoms can include swollen eyes that are also red and painful. Shingles that affects the face can:

  • impair vision
  • increase the risk of glaucoma
  • scar the eyes.

Postherpetic neuralgia is a painful shingles complication that occurs in 20 percent of cases. Chest pain caused by postherpetic neuralgia stings and burns just like shingles pain. Affected skin can be sensitive to touch or temperature changes.

Chest pain due to postherpetic neuralgia can last up to one year. In some cases, chest pain caused by shingles can become a chronic affliction.

Other shingles complications can include:

  • bacterial infections in shingles blisters
  • encephalitis
  • hearing problems
  • loss of facial movement
  • temporary or permanent blindness.

Shingles Treatment

Shingles treatment can include large doses of antiviral medication, such as:

  • acyclovir
  • famciclovir
  • valacyclovir.

For best results during shingles treatment, antiviral medication should begin within three days of symptom onset.

Most shingles treatment focuses on minimizing shingles symptoms and chest pain. Over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen is used to combat shingles chest pain. Aspirin is not recommended during a herpes zoster outbreak, as the combination of aspirin and herpes zoster can cause a fatal complication known as Reye’s syndrome.

In addition to over-the-counter pain medication, shingles treatment can include medicated lotions applied directly to the blisters to reduce chest pain and itching.

Shingles treatments also include washing the rash gently twice a day with regular soap and water. Adding baking soda, uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal to a cool bath also helps sooth shingles itching. (Colloidal oatmeal is a powdered form of oatmeal designed for use in baths.)

Shingles Vaccination and Prevention

The only sure prevention against shingles is never to catch chicken pox or receive the chicken pox vaccination. However, as herpes zoster is such a common virus, most people can’t avoid it.

People over the age of 60 who had chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccination in the past may benefit from a shingles vaccination. While the shingles vaccination is no guarantee that shingles won’t develop, the vaccination does reduce both the severity and duration of shingles symptoms.

Resources (updated November 2005). Shingles. Retrieved November 15, 2007, from the Family Doctor Web site:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (7 November 2007). Shingles. Retrieved November 15, 2007, from the Mayo Web site: