Shingles, Herpes Zoster
Description: a very painful condition where a virus infects usually just one nerve and causes a painful rash on the skin supplied by that nerve. The rash often becomes infected, and sometimes after healing, a deep pain called post-herpetic neuralgia, persists.
The chicken pox virus (VZV varicella zoster virus) and causes chicken pox which is usually mild with a rash all over the body. Shingles is a reactivation of this virus which has been sitting in the nerve cells in the spinal cord, usually in older people or those with compromised immune systems. It is best for older people, especially if frail or with reduced immunity, to avoid children with chickenpox. Note – shingles is contagious to people who have never had chickenpox only when the blisters are present.
What your doctor can do
It is essential to see your doctor as soon as possible.
- Antiviral treatment (acyclovir or famcyclovir) can make a huge reduction in suffering. It is most beneficial if started within 72 hours of the onset of the pain, which can often precede the rash. At one stage steroid drugs (prednisone) were used, but there is no evidence that short or long term they help at all. If the eye or skin around the eye is affected, then treatment with antiviral eye drops is an emergency to try to avoid permanent eye damage.
- Pain relief and antibiotics for secondary infections.
- Drugs which may help the pain of post herpetic neuralgia include amitryptiline, tegretol, gabapentin, lignocaine patch, and sometimes even morphine-like drugs may be required if the pain is very severe. Cannabis and its derivatives have been shown to help with intractable pain, and in places where its use is legal, may well help.
What you can do
See your doctor as fast as you can to start antiviral therapy. If it is a weekend, go to the emergency doctor because this is an emergency.
Once the shingles has established, keep the infected area clean with gentle washing with soap and water, and cool compresses with calamine lotion or other bland lotions may help the symptoms.
- Vitamin C in very high doses can damage viruses, and as soon as the diagnosis is made start 2-4 grams of vitamin C, 3 times a day (or until diarrhoea develops). If there is a facility near you which can give it, ask for some intravenous vitamin C, 30-40 grams twice weekly for 2 weeks (click here).
- Good nutrition: multivitamin/multimineral supplements and omega 3 fish oils may aid healing and could possibly reduce the risk of post herpetic neuralgia.
- Vitamin D – this vitamin seems to affect many infectious and immune conditions. While there are no studies of Vitamin D and shingles, interestingly the disease is more common in the winter months when blood vitamin D levels are low, and I would recommend that everyone with shingles take vitamin D supplements 5 – 8,000iu daily.
The Nutritional supplements I use and recommend to my patients
For my Shingles patients I recommend –
USANA – Cellsentials *, Proflavanol C,extra vitamin C (Poly C), vitamin D –
Other therapiesThere are a number of other therapies which you might like to look at. They have not been specifically included with this disease because some are a form of treatment which is applicable to most diseases and many focus on the mind, body, spirit, and the universe. These include - acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, homeopathy, naturopathy, prayer, visualisation and some people with this condition might like to look at these topics (I have described them more fully on another page on this website click here .) With my personal experience and reading, I do not think that I can comment of whether one or a number of these might help. They fit well with most conventional and complementary treatments and I suspect some or even all of them can be extremely powerful - if performed by an experienced practitioner. My only caveat is that if in the course of one of these therapies, you are given potions or herbs, do check with your health practitioner that they will not interfere with other treatments or drugs you are receiving.
Nutritional supplementsI believe in today's world that nutritional supplements are so necessary as to be an essential component of any form of both prevention and treatment. Not only is today's food lacking in nutrients because of the way it was grown and processed, but also most of us make the wrong choices in diet. It is virtually impossible to obtain optimal levels of most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients although many people try to do so, and even then fresh produce is not available all year round. *There are many quality supplements available on the market, including –Thorne, NFS, Douglas Labs, Xtend Life, True Star Health, USANA, and Metagenics. There are others, but do your due diligence before choosing one. USANA Health Sciences has added a new adjunct to its multivitamin and multi mineral called CellSentials. These are a patented blend of phyto-nutrients which they believe affects cell signaling and growth, and increases the production of preventative antioxidants within the cell. These should add to the value of the multi, so these are the multivitamin/mineral preparation I recommend.