Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Overview

Shingles is an outbreak of a rash or blisters on the skin that may be associated with severe pain.  The pain is generally on one side of the body or face.

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Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.  After an attack of chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the nerve tissue and then, as we get older, it is possible for the virus to reappear in the form of shingles.

Incidence; Contributing Risk Factors

Shingles is estimated to affect 20% of people during their lifetimes.  Close to 50% of those who live beyond the age of 80 can expect to develop shingles.

Although it is most common in people over age 50, anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for developing shingles.  Shingles is also more common in people with weakened immune systems from HIV infection, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, transplant operations and stress.  Chicken pox vaccination given to children reduces the incidence and severity of both chicken pox and shingles later in life.

Signs and Symptoms

Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching generally located on one side of the body or face.  The rash or blisters are present anywhere from one to 14 days.

Prognosis

Prognosis is good unless the infection spreads to the brain.  Eventually, most patients recover completely.  If shingles appears on the face, it can lead to complications in hearing and vision.  For instance, if shingles affects the eye, the cornea can become infected and lead to temporary or permanent blindness.  Another complication of the virus is postherpetic neuralgia, a condition in which the pain from shingles persists for months – sometimes years – after the shingles rash has healed.  Bacterial infection of the affected area is another possible side-effect.

Conditions that suggest Shingles (Herpes Zoster):

Symptoms - Immune System

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Risk factors for Shingles (Herpes Zoster):

Childhood

Chicken pox in childhood

Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles.

Immunity

Weakened Immune System

Shingles is also more common in people with weakened immune systems from HIV infection, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, transplant operations and stress.

HIV/AIDS

Some people with AIDS develop frequent and severe shingles; shingles is 9 times more likely to develop in those infected with HIV.

Recommendations for Shingles (Herpes Zoster):

Amino Acid / Protein

L-Lysine

Lysine can speed the healing of shingles lesions.  Painful shingles blisters are caused by a reactivation of varicella-zoster virus, an infection that started out as an attack of chickenpox.  Herpes zoster is closely related to herpes simplex, however, and lysine appears to have a similar role to play in treating an eruption of shingles.  Most physicians who recommend lysine will combine this therapy with conventional antiviral medications such as acyclovir or valacyclovir.  Recommendation: Take 1,000mg L-lysine three times a day with meals during flare-ups.  Reduce the dose to 500mg three times a day for one week after healing.

Botanical

Cayenne Pepper

Capsaicin used topically may benefit sufferers of postherpetic neuralgia.

Mineral

Oxygen / Oxidative Therapies

Ozone / Oxidative Therapy

At the Center of Medical and Surgical Research in Havana, 15 adult patients suffering from herpes zoster were treated with injections of ozone/oxygen for a period of 15 days.  All patients were completely symptom-free after the treatment and follow-up examinations a year later showed no relapse.

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