Shingles

Shingles is caused by the varicella virus, also known as chicken pox. Shingles is becoming more and more common today and we can speculate that it has to do with less and less chicken pox. In the last generation, kids often got chicken pox and while the parents worked, the grandparents or aunt and uncles took care of the sick kids. Having already had chicken pox, this second exposure to the virus was like a booster.

Shingles is when the virus invades the nerve cells then the skin cells around the nerve branch, creating skin sores. They usually start at the spine and work their way around the body following the nerve branch to the front of the body. They are very painful and usually last 2-3 weeks, crusting over and peeling. The pain may last longer since the nerves are still very irritated. The virus may die off but leaves behind debris from reproduction, which irritates the nerves. Complications can occur with shingles, such as with the nerves to the eyes and sight problems or with the ears and hearing problems.

Usually, Shingles is diagnosed by the description and an exam at a doctor’s visit. It is rarely cultured. However, it can be cultured and a blood test can identify whether the body is being challenged by an infection both generally and specifically for varicella. The main concern with Shingles is why the body is not able to keep the virus under control. There are several things that can affect the body’s immune function. Patients being treated with Rheumatoid Arthritis are at a higher risk for Shingles because the drugs suppress their immune response. When there are other serious infections going on in the body such as Leukemia or HIV, there is also a greater risk for repeated infections like Shingles

Anti-viral pharmaceuticals are usually not very helpful unless used in the first couple days of the outbreak. Unless someone has had Shingle before, they usually don’t have any idea what the rash or discomfort is. Topical cayenne, called capsicum, can help with the discomfort. Peppermint and geranium oils can also help with the discomfort when mixed with a base oil. A fruit diet has shown to decrease the incidence and risk of Shingles. Antiviral herbs and medical mushrooms can help counter the infection. For long-term resolution, the immune function needs to be addressed.