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Q.

Can shingles occur in the vaginal area?

It’s uncommon (though not unheard of) for shingles to affect the external area around the vagina, called the vulva. It’s very unusual for shingles to affect the inside of the vagina itself, but it can occur.
 

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Internal Medicine
Emory University
131 Answers
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A.

It’s uncommon (though not unheard of) for shingles to affect the external area around the vagina, called the vulva. It’s very unusual for shingles to affect the inside of the vagina itself, but it can occur.

Shingles is the common name for herpes zoster, the painful rash that results from reactivation of varicella virus in adulthood. Most of us are infected by varicella virus as children, when it causes chickenpox. After we recover from chickenpox, varicella doesn’t disappear, but rather goes dormant, hiding inside nerves under our skin for years. Later in life, varicella can erupt on the skin to cause the painful rash called herpes zoster or shingles. (Varicella is in the herpes virus family, but is distinct from HSV-1 and HSV-2, the herpes viruses that commonly affect the lips and genitals.)

Varicella is much more likely to affect external skin than moist mucous membranes inside the mouth or vagina. Ulcers or sores on the vagina are more often due to HSV-1 or HSV-2 (herpes infections). Taking a viral culture from the site of a fresh ulcer is the only way to know for sure, though.

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