Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a common, unpleasant, and painful affliction caused by a childhood chickenpox virus in those not immunized by infection during childhood. The moderate to severe pain affects the nerve endings in the skin and mid-back thoracic region following the ribs around the chest. In rare cases shingles occurs in the vaginal tissue and/or inside the mucous membranes of the mouth.
A typical attack of shingles may be preceded by 3 or 4 days of chills, fever, and achiness. There may also be immediate pain to the afflicted area. Small blood vessels are blocked, causing pain and possible organ damage. In a day or so, a rash of small blisters occurs progressing from red bumps to blisters to crusty pox, usually clearing in 3-4 weeks, but in rarer cases the rash and pains ensue for 3-12 months.
Many adults have already contracted chickenpox, a common childhood disease. However, once the varicella-zoster virus enters the body and has caused chickenpox, it doesn’t go away but may lie dormant for years or decades in the spinal cord and nerve ganglia. There is suspicion that severe and prolonged stress, followed by a low immune system, may preclude shingles infection on an elderly person, although even younger people are not immune. The virus is present at the site of the rash and is contagious for one week after appearance of the lesion (blisters).
Cold packs can be applied to relieve the pain. Applying witch hazel freely may also help. Sometimes even the weight of clothes is extremely painful.
Shingles occurs in about 20% of the population regardless of race, gender, or time of year. It is more common with advanced age. It is estimated that 90 percent of people who have had chickenpox are at risk of developing shingles (approximately 70 percent of all people over the age of 50). Sometimes people can suffer chronic pain and post-herpetic neuralgia that can last for years. Some patients suffer injury to the eye if shingles occurs in a face nerve. The elderly may be infected from a grandchild with the same smallpox virus. Any person exposed to a person with shingles will not necessarily get shingles, but may develop chickenpox.
The chance of an attack of shingles is increased by various factors. Some of these factors are stress and anxiety, cancer, HIV, spinal cord injuries, the use of chemotherapy, and severe immune deficiencies. Drugs such as cyclosporine and corticosteroids may also exacerbate symptoms.
Secondary infections are always a concern. Infections can result in redness and swelling and often lead to permanent scarring. Shingles is nine times more common in HIV infected patients. It is rarely recurrent, but the possibility exists. Death can occur as a result of secondary bacterial infections or viral pneumonia brought on by shingles.
Excessive tissue copper levels is associated with an impaired immune system and hence the susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, including the herpes virus. Copper levels can best be checked via the ARL Hair Analysis.
- VITAMIN C (with BIOFLAVONOIDS)
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids are antioxidants that aid in fighting the virus that causes shingles, and are well known to boost the immune system. Supplementation of vitamin C with QUERCETIN or HESPERIDIN may help to defer further exacerbation and pain and inflammation of the disease. Dosage: Vitamin C 1000-6,000 mg a day (or to bowel tolerance); Quercetin 500-1,000 mg daily.
An amino acid that is important for healing and fighting the virus that causes shingles. Supplementing with Lysine will decrease the incidence and exacerbation of all herpes viruses. Dosage: 500 mg twice a day on an empty stomach. Lysine may take in combination with vitamin C and vitamin B6. CAUTION: Do not take Lysine for more than 5-6 months at a time.
- VITAMIN E and VITAMIN A (BETA CAROTENE)
Two antioxidant “fat-soluble” vitamins that can help prevent the formation of scar tissue and improve recovery of the disease. These vitamins are key immune modulators. Vitamin A deficiency has been associated with increased susceptibility to numerous infectious diseases. Dosage: Vitamin E 400-800 IU daily; Vitamin A 5,000-25,000 IU daily.
- CALCIUM LACTATE
The skin needs ionized calcium lactate to make it resistant to shingles. Digestible calcium is important. Dosage: 4-12 tablets daily as directed.
- GOLDENTHREAD, WOAD, ASTRAGALUS
Three popular herbs that may enhance immunity, fight infection, and stimulate the body’s natural ability to fight the virus. Do not use astragalus in the presence of a fever. Dosage: As directed by a health practitioner.
- BERGAMONT ESSENTIAL OIL used topically has been shown to reduce painful symptoms of shingles.
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