Shingles

Shingles is an extremely painful viral condition that affects the nerve endings in the skin. It can affect people of any age, however is most common in those over 50.

Symptoms

Painful rash with reddened skin and blisters that follow the path of a nerve

3-4 days of slight fever, chills, upset stomach and body aches may precede the outbreak of the blisters

Painful skin sensations described as burning, tingling, itching, or prickling are then followed by the development of an inflamed red rash which is very sensitive to touch; the pain remains and may be continuous or intermittent

The blisters, rash and tenderness usually occur on only one side of your face or body

May be accompanied by numbness, headache, fever, depression

After 7-14 days, the blisters form scabs and drop off, although more serious cases may last longer and pain can persist for months or even years in rare cases

Causes

The same virus that causes chickenpox (Herpes zoster), causes shingles. People who have had chickenpox are usually immune from getting it again. However, the virus stays in the system, lying dormant in the spinal cord and nerve tissue, and may be re-activated years later causing shingles.

Situations that affect the immune system, such as serious illness, stress or trauma, can cause the virus to be re-activated. The virus spreads to the ends of the nerves where it causes them to send pain signals to the brain. This nerve irritation is the source of the symptoms of burning, shooting, tingling pain and the extreme skin sensitivity.

Shingles is a serious condition that should always be treated by a healthcare professional. Treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms.

Calamine lotion and wet compresses are helpful to soothe the itch.

Natural Therapies

Echinacea helps strengthen the immune system and may assist your body in fighting the infection; the antioxidant nutrients betacarotene, vitamins C and E and the minerals zinc and selenium may also be of assistance

The minerals magnesium and potassium are supportive to the nervous system and may help to reduce nerve pain

The herb hypericum traditionally used for the nerve pain that can be experienced in shingles

Lifestyle Factors

Varying the ratio of certain amino acids in the diet is beneficial. A diet high in L-lysine and low in L-arginine is recommended. To achieve this you need to avoid foods such as chocolate, cereal grains, nuts, and seeds which are rich in L-arginine, and at the same time increase foods, high in the amino acid L-lysine, such as vegetables, legumes, fish, turkey and chicken.

Some people find that a short period (10-15 minutes) of sunlight daily can help to heal the blisters.

Remedies

To avoid further infection, avoid itching or scratching the blisters, but be sure to maintain good hygiene practices and wash them gently every day.

Get plenty of rest and avoid stress, which is weakening to your immune system.

Important Notes

Seek medical assistance urgently if the shingles appear on the face, particularly near the nostrils or eyes.

You should also consult your healthcare professional if your rash persists for longer than 10 days without improvement, or if the blisters become infected (swollen or pustular).

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