Shingles (Herpes Zoster) is No Picnic
Have you ever experienced a bout of shingles? The symptoms can range from mild to severe as many people (including myself) can attest. This condition is much more prevalent now. Have you noticed the recent onslaught of ads for drugs and a vaccine on TV and in magazines?
Too young to get shingles, you say? Think again. If you investigate shingles in health forums, you will find a dramatic increase in the younger population, despite the fact that it is touted as a disease for people 50+ years.
You have probably heard of both herpes simplex and herpes zoster. Herpes simplex is usually seen as cold sores around the mouth while herpes zoster (shingles) presents in the form of painful blisters and/or redness with pain following a specific nerve path on one side of the body.
See some pictures of shingles HERE.
It’s Nerve Root Inflammation Initiated by a Virus
Shingles is a common viral infection of the nerve root, caused by the the same virus associated with chickenpox (varicella zoster). In the Greek language, the word ‘herpes’ means ‘to creep’ and ‘zoster’ means ‘a belt or girdle.’ Its common name shingles, is derived from the Latin word ‘cingulum’, again meaning ‘a belt.’ If you had chickenpox as a child, you have a dormant herpes zoster virus in a nerve root(s).
Shingles is a common viral infection of the nerve root, caused by the the same virus that associated with chickenpox.
It is characterized by an outbreak of vesicular skin blisters (sores) and mild to severe neuralgia (nerve pain), generally affecting one side of the body along the nerve affected, hence the belt like appearance.
Conventionally, there is no cure for shingles and the prevailing approach to treatment continues to be suppressive antiviral therapy such as valtrex and acyclovir. These drugs need to be taken before the outbreak of lesions to be most effective, but the initial symptoms of shingles can be so vague as to escape an accurate early diagnosis.
In my experience, natural treatments offer a more effective approach to its treatment, especially after the disease begins to reveal itself as lesions on the skin.
What are the symptoms?
Shingles symptoms happen in stages. At first you may have a headache or be sensitive to light. You may also feel like you have the flu but not have a fever. There is often a very heavy fatigue that sets in and you may find yourself going to bed earlier than usual.
Later, you may feel itching, tingling, or pain in a certain area of your body. That’s where a band, strip, or small area of rash may occur a few days later. The rash can turn into clusters of blisters. The blisters fill with fluid and then crust over. It takes 2 to 4 weeks for the blisters to heal, and they may leave scars. Some people only get a mild rash, and some do not get a rash at all.
It’s important to treat the shingles properly to prevent long term neuralgic pain even after the lesions have healed on your skin.
Supporting your immune system should be your first goal. A weakened immune system is more prone to a herpes infection. Stress is the biggie. As a matter of fact, whenever I ask people if they had a period of prolonged stress just before they contracted the disease, almost universally they respond ‘yes. ‘ And, if they have been eating a lot of white flour and sugar products, junk food and drinking too much alcohol, the probability of a diminished immune system is greater.
To support your immune system:
- Get lots of sleep; avoid stressful situations as much as possible.
- Eat and drink healthy foods and beverages. This is not the time to indulge in pizza and beer. Drink plenty of pure water, eat lots of veggies and drink a glass of vegetable juice a day if you can. Have some low sugar fruits (non-tropical) every few days. Avoid red meat, white sugar and flour products, soda, coffee and junk foods.
1. Homeopathic medicines are known to act from within and positively influence the immune system and enhance the body’s own healing capacity. The pain, discomfort, progress and spread is effectively controlled with these medicines. Just choose one remedy. If you are unsure, buy the Rhus Tox at a 30c strength and take 1 pill 4x daily. Make sure nothing is in your mouth at least 10 minutes before and after taking the remedy including brushing your teeth.
- Rhus toxicodendron: This is the first remedy to consider if your symptoms present as a rash that begins with many small blisters, is red and intensely itchy, and is relieved by hot baths or hot wet compresses. You may feel restless and want to pace the room or constantly move around. In clinical practice, I would prescribe this remedy more than any other for shingles.
- Ranunculus bulbosus: This remedy is indicated for intensely itching shingles on the ribcage (either on the back or chest), which are also very sore, and worse from contact with clothing or any kind of touch. The blisters may look bluish. You may feel worse from exposure to cold air.
2. Apple cider vinegar: organic apple cider vinegar applied to the lesions with sterile cotton baton is a wonderful healer. This will help the itching and heal the lesions must faster.
3. Have over-the-counter pain medication on hand just in case it is required. Some people may require more powerful prescribed pain analgesics. Follow directions on the bottle or as directed by your doctor.
4. Because stress often plays such a big part in the virus becoming reactivated, get plenty of rest. Close your eyes and listen to nature audio recordings before bed and at other relaxing breaks during the day. Get a reflexology treatment. Put off dealing with stressful situations until you are feeling better.
The key is to catch the symptoms early. I had shingles once and didn’t realize it. The side of my hand and wrist hurt and I thought I was experiencing a reactivation of an old injury. I let it go too long. So pay attention to the signs and symptoms — if you have been through a lengthy stressful period and your energy feels depleted and areas of your body hurt or tingle only on one side, think of the possibility of shingles.
Follow through with your treatment regime until the lesions disappear (continue using the apple cider vinegar until the lesions are completely healed) and your energy improves. If you do not rest and eat foods you shouldn’t during this period, your immune system will remain weak and you could develop what is called postherpetic neuralgia (pain, headaches and nerve problems). This occurs after the lesions heal and can last for at least 30 days and can continue for months to years.
People who develop shingles after age 50 and who have severe pain and rash during shingles have the greatest risk for having postherpetic neuralgia. It most commonly occurs on the forehead or chest. The pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia may make it difficult to eat, sleep and do daily activities. It may also increase the risk for depression.[custom_frame_right][/custom_frame_right]
Some people get relief from postherpetic neuralgia with acupuncture treatments.
When to call your physician
- the shingles is affecting the side of the head, and especially if it seems to affect the tip of the nose or the eye itself.
- you are immunocompromised
- you have high fever
- the sores take more than 10 days to heal
- your symptoms remain for a long time or they get aggravated
- you are suffering from another illness simultaneously
Shingles is nothing to laugh at. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy” is a phrase used by many people after experiencing the discomfort and pain this virus causes.
Word of advice: don’t slack off on your self-care during and after a herpes attack. Stay on a healthy regime for at least several months afterwards because it can return if your immune system becomes weak again.
Did you ever have shingles? Let’s hear about your experience! Please comment below: