Shingles strikes some 850,000 Americans each year. It can appear at any age, but is most common in people over the age of fifty, when the immune function naturally begins to decline as a result of aging.
Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which happens to be the same virus that causes chickenpox. It affects the nerve endings in the skin. Most common places on the body affected is the skin of the abdomen under the ribs, leading toward the navel, but can appear anywhere on the body.
Most adults have already contracted chickenpox. This common childhood disease causes a fever and a rash that itches maddeningly, but rarely does any permanent damage. However, once the varicella-zoster virus enters the body and has caused chickenpox, it does not go away. It may lie dormant in the spinal cord and nerve ganglia for years until a weakening of the immune system. Then the varicella-zoster infection spreads to the very ends of the nerves, causing them to send impulses to the brain that are interpreted as severe pain, itching, or burning, and rendering the under skin skin much more sensitive than usual.
Most cases of shingle run their course within a few weeks. More severe cases may last longer and require aggressive treatment. But in some cases the pain lasts for months, even years, after the blisters have disappeared. This syndrome, called postherpetic neuralgia, is more likely to occur in older people. If shingles develop near the eyes, the cornea may be affected and blindness may result. An ophthalmologist should be consulted if the shingles appear on the forehead, near the eyes, or on the tip of the nose. Untreated ophthalmic herpes zoster can lead to vision loss.
An attack of shingles is often preceded by three or four days of chills, fever, and achiness. The pain may have started in the affected area. Then crops of tiny blisters appear. The affected area becomes excruciatingly painful and sensitive to the touch. Numbness, depression, tingling, shooting pains, fever and headache may also be present. Thankfully this phase of shingles lasts only seven to fourteen days. (ONLY ?!) The blisters event form crusty scabs and drop off. People can get shingles more than once.
The chance of an attack of shingles can be increased by many factors, including:
* The use of anticancer drugs
* Immune system deficiency
However, serious illness is not required to activate the virus. Any type of physical or emotional stress can make one unacceptable. Often, something as innocent as a minor injury or a mild cold can lead to an attack in an otherwise healthy person. In most cases, it is never determined just what the trigger is. For people with immune shortcomings, shingles and its aftermath can be devastating. The disease is capable of affecting the internal organs, attacking even the lungs and kidneys. Disseminated shingles can cause permanent injury-including blindness, deafness, or paralysis, depending upon the area of the body that is served by the infected nerves-if it goes unchecked. Death can occur as the result of a secondary bacterial infection or viral pneumonia brought on by shingles.
L-Lysine is a very useful amino acid in the fighting of the viruses that cause cold sores and herpe viruses. Taking supplementary L-lysine, together with vitamin C with bioflavonoids, can effectively fight and / or prevent herpes outbreaks. Important for healing and for combating the virus that causes shinglees as well. Do not take this supplement for longer than 6 months at a time.
Cayenne (capsicum) contains a substance called capsaicin, which relieves pain and aids in healing. It also acts as a detoxifier. Cayenne is available in tablet and capsule form. Capsaicin is also the active ingredient in Zostrix, a topical cream, which is helpful for postherpetic neuralgia. Capsaicin should never be applied topically until the lesions caused by shingles have completely healed, however, or extreme burning pain can result.
Keeping stress to a minimum is important. Stress reduces the immune system's effectiveness in fighting off infection. Studies have found that people with shingles report having recently been through stressful periods more often than other people. St Johns wort can help reduce the effects of the stress produced by the process of the shingles. The B Vitamins are needed for nerve health and to counteract deficiencies.
While shingles itself is not contagious, a person with shingles may infect previously uninfected persons, particularly children, with chickenpox. Stay away from pregnant women because she and her unborn child may become infected.