You may have fatigue during and after a shingles infection due to postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Treatment may help reduce fatigue.

Sometimes, feelings of fatigue can last for a long time after recovery from shingles — even after the other symptoms of shingles have disappeared. This may happen for a few different reasons.

Keep reading to learn why fatigue can linger and what can be done about it.

You may still feel tired after recovering from shingles for various reasons.

Postherpetic neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a potential complication of shingles.

PHN occurs because of inflammation or injury to nerves during shingles. It’s unclear why some people develop PHN while others don’t. Some risk factors include increasing age and severe symptoms during shingles.

People with PHN experience pain for 3 months or more after they’ve had shingles.

The pain from PHN can be described as shocks that feel like they’re:

  • stabbing
  • burning
  • electric

The pain described above happens in the area affected by the shingles rash. The symptoms of PHN can eventually ease. However, this may take months to years for some people.

Learn more about PHN.

PHN and fatigue

PHN can be an indirect cause of fatigue in people who have had shingles. The area impacted by PHN is typically more sensitive than normal, and it’s possible that even a light touch can cause pain.

This can include the feeling or movement of bedsheets against the affected area. The symptoms of PHN can increase during the day and worsen at night.

Because of this, many people with PHN experience insomnia. These sleepless nights can lead to increased fatigue during the day.

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that’s characterized by extreme levels of fatigue. These feelings:

  • last 6 months or longer
  • get worse after physical or mental exercise
  • don’t improve with rest

The exact causes of CFS are currently unknown. Scientists continue to investigate several areas as potential causes of CFS, one of which is infections.

Although scarce, some research has been performed on shingles and CFS.

In one 2014 study, a group of researchers compared the incidence of CFS in 9,205 people who had shingles and 36,820 people who hadn’t. They found that people who’d had shingles were more likely to either have or develop CFS.

A 2019 study based on 17 years of data from Taiwan suggests that people with a previous chickenpox infection had a significantly higher risk of CFS.

It’s important to remember that research into this topic is still very limited. Scientists need to perform additional studies to determine whether these two conditions are linked and, if so, how they’re connected.

Learn more about CFS.

If you’re experiencing fatigue during or after shingles, some of the suggestions below may help you cope.

  • Setting up a sleep routine: Pain from shingles or PHN can make sleeping hard. However, following tips for better sleep can help. This can include having a firm bedtime or doing something relaxing, like reading or taking a bath, before going to sleep.
  • Reducing stress: Stress can sap your energy. Additionally, if you have shingles, stress may worsen symptoms. Because of this, try to find ways to reduce your stress levels, like mindfulness exercises.
  • Eating often: Eating often may help you keep your energy levels up while you’re feeling tired. Try to space meals and healthy snacks, so you eat something every few hours.
  • Staying hydrated: Dehydration can make you feel fatigued or sluggish, so make sure you’re getting enough fluids.
  • Reaching out for help: You can try reaching out to loved ones for support and understanding. If fatigue significantly affects your mood and daily life, engaging with a support group or a mental health professional may be beneficial.

Talking with a doctor

It’s important to talk with a doctor if you have fatigue with or after shingles. A doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan that can help to address your symptoms.

Antiviral medications can help to treat shingles. When these are started shortly after symptoms appear, they can reduce your symptoms and the duration of your illness.

Several types of medications may help with PHN pain. These include:

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Getting vaccinated for shingles can help you avoid shingles, PHN, and the fatigue associated with these conditions. Vaccination is important, even if you’ve already had shingles or if you had chickenpox as a child.

Learn more about the shingles vaccine.

You may experience fatigue while you have shingles. It’s also possible to feel fatigued even after recovery.

Fatigue may happen indirectly due to PHN, a complication of shingles that involves lingering pain. Many people with PHN experience insomnia. Shingles has also been linked to CFS, although more research is needed.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of shingles or PHN, talk with a doctor about receiving treatment. The best way to prevent fatigue due to shingles or PHN is to receive the shingles vaccine.