Shingles is caused by the same virus as chicken pox, it is the reactivation of the virus varicella zoster (VZV). If activated at a later date, it can take the form of shingles, which is also known as herpes zoster. While chicken pox can be uncomfortable, shingles can be downright painful. In addition it can also cause symptoms similar to the flu that can last for weeks.
Since the immune system develops resistance to the virus, the majority of people who get shingles, will only get it once in their life. A small percentage of people (less than 10%) will experience shingles a second time.
Symptoms of Shingles
The following are they common noticeable signs of shingles:
- Red rash
- Blisters on the skin, which break open and crust over
- Itching of the skin
- Burning feelings of pain, some level of numbness or tingling sensation
- Flu like symptoms
It’s important to note that there are many variations to shingles. In mild cases of shingles, some people experience mild itching or tingling and no pain. Individuals with a stronger immune system may have milder symptoms.
Common Causes of Shingles
It’s estimated that more than 90% of adults in the U.S. are carrying VZV. There are a variety of factors that may contribute to shingles:
- Weakened immune system of the body
- An infection in the body
- Trauma or Shock (Physical or emotional)
- Exposure to chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- Extensive use of steroids
- Being over age 60
- More common in women than men
- Family history
What are the Four Stages of Shingles?
Prodromal-(Lasts 1-5 days) Cold like symptoms, malaise, fever, chills, excessive tiredness.
Active-(Lasts 1-5 days) Rash appears, headache, digestive issues, fever,
Skin Blistering-(Lasts 7-10 days) Fluid filled blisters appear. Blister can leak open. This is the contagious stage. Blisters will scab and heal.
Healing -(lasts 1-3 weeks) Rash and blisters disappear and pain recedes.
How Long Do Symptoms Last?
Before shingles appear, it is common to experience body aches, fatigue, headaches, sensitivity to light and even swollen lymph nodes. These common symptoms can easily be mislabeled as a cold, flu or virus. Since the symptoms come in stages, it can take a few weeks for symptoms to disappear completely. The reality is that the initial skin symptoms can take several days to two weeks to appear.
It’s common to feel a burning or itching sensation on the skin, which can later be followed by bumps, blisters or rash on one side of the body. Unlike other illnesses, shingles is one sided, meaning one arm, one leg, one side of the trunk or face.
Once blisters appear, the virus is an active stage. Over the course of a few weeks the blisters will scab over and heal. While the rash can clear up in a few weeks, pain can be experienced for longer periods.
Shingles pain is referred to as “postherpetic neuralgia” (PHN), it is the most common complication of shingles. The rate of PHN is almost 30 percent higher in people over 50, as compared to younger individuals.
Natural Help for Shingles
Complimentary Alternative Medicine, such as acupuncture, meditation, cupping, Chinese herbs and adaptogens have provided relief and reduction in pain symptoms, as backed by this study in the Journal of Therapeutics. Patients in the study experienced a reduction of 72-77 percent. Patients with long term pain reported pain reductions of 75-100%.
Dietary support– Since the nervous system is challenged by shingles, including foods rich in B vitamins is important.
Vitamin C– Boost your immune system and increase healing time by adding foods high in vitamin C.
Add onions & garlic-High in allicin, these foods help to give your immune system a boost.
Green leafy vegetables-High in beta carotene and calcium, these foods help cleanse the body and boost the immune system
Stay hydrated– Drinking 8 ounces of water every couple of hours will help to flush your system and keep things moving.
Foods to Avoid–As with any virus you want to avoid foods that depress your immune system. So avoid sugar, fruit juices, caffeine, sodas and carbonated drinks and heavy foods such as fried foods.
Shingles is a virus, so supplements that boost your immune system and offer antiviral effects are a great option. Talk with your practitioner about doses that are appropriate for you.
B12– This vitamin helps to reduce pain, energize your body and promote a faster recovery.
Vitamin C– Boosts white blood cells and your immune system.
Echinacea-Well known herb for its immune boosting properties, fighting infections and viruses.
Oregano Oil-This is a potent antiviral.
Zinc-When taken at the earliest sign of illness, it works best. Supports the immune system and has antiviral benefits.
Homeopathic Remedies for shingles
Ranunculus bulbosus- This option is indicated for shingles when the rash is deeply inflamed accompanied with stabbing pains primarily on the ribcage. The eruptions are often bluish in color.
Rhus tox –This is a common remedies for the treatment of shingles. It helps to relieve itching and pains accompanying this condition. The rash consists of small, red fluid-filled vesicles or blisters that break when scratched, spreading the infection. Shingles will appear primarily on the left side of the body. Hot baths and warm compresses bring temporary relief.
Iris versicolor is indicated when the rash is worse on the right side of the abdomen and under the right arm. Shingles are often accompanied by abdominal upset.
Arsenicum album is chosen for terrible burning pains along the nerve pathway. Pain is often relieved with the application of warm compresses.
Clematis erectus alleviates shingles pain that features burning, red blisters that become aggravated at night time and with the application of cold water. Urinary tract complaints during an attack of shingles, more clearly indicate the use of this remedy.
Apis mellifica is indicated for treatment of shingles when the rash is bright pink, swollen, itchy and produces stinging pains made better by cool compresses and aggravated by warmth.
Mezereum is indicated for a shingles rash where the blisters are oozing, bright red and made worse by hot applications. The rash is often accompanied by terrible itching made better with the application of cool compresses.
Graphites: this remedy is used in the later stage of Shingles disease for patients that show a crusty quality of vesicles accompanied by a sticky exudation.
Hypericum: this remedy is used for Shingles with extreme pain and intense itching. This pain is due to the excess pain in the nerve
Cantharis: the associated indication of this form of Shingles is a burning sensation that is aggravated with touch but milder with cold application.
Your homeopath should advise on dosing recommendations. Generally speaking for the Homeopathic treatment of shingles to be effective, it is better repeated in the interval of few hours four times daily. It can also be combined with other medication without any complication. Its important to note that conventional medicines may distort the symptoms shown above and this might slow the response expected from the homeopathics.
Know When to Seek Your Doctor
Trust yourself and know when to call your doctor. Conventional treatment may include pain killers for nerve pain and antiviral drugs.