Recently I encountered the very painful condition of Shingles! Shingles is a virus that infects your body due to a decreased immune system. However my immune system runs really high, in fact it runs too well to the point of having auto immune issues, so I found that due to stress at my day job, the virus activated and attacked my body.
At first the infection appeared as dry to itchy skin so I thought this was because my work place makes your skin dry, red and painful when the cooler season starts. I was almost out of body lotion, and thought all I need to do is get more lotion from the store. I then noticed that a rash was forming and then my skin started opening into wounds. I thought, what is going on with me? Do I have Lupus or is this a flesh-eating virus!
The weekend came and one of my friends from Chicago came into town and we traveled to an area store, bought my favorite body lotion and I put lotion on the infected area thinking this would help. During the weekend we went to a hotel for a convention and since the hotel did not have good food to eat, we went to the nearest mall. I started noticing my lack of energy in walking and my stomach was hurting, much like flu like symptoms. My friends were concerned, however I stated I would just pace myself and move forward.
In the evening I had some drinks and then felt better which I believe the alcohol content ended up killing whatever was making me sick to my stomach. My friends were wondering how I was feeling and I shared what was happening to my skin. As they viewed my infected skin, they immediately identified my condition as Shingles.
That following Monday I went to my primary doctor and sure enough my condition was Shingles. In the afternoon on Monday I started feeling the other effects of the virus, which is extreme nerve pain. I always thought Shingles was some type of unsightly skin rash and not something that could cause extreme pain and drain your body of energy to where a walk from my bedroom to the kitchen just about made me pass out. Stress from work put me at a much higher risk of developing this Shingles infection.
So where does Shingles come from? If you have had chicken pox in the past, or if you were vaccinated for chicken pox, the virus never completely leaves your system. Even long after the itchy rash and infection are gone, the virus lays in a dormant or resting state in the spinal nerve cells of our bodies. The symptoms of the virus disappear, and are kept in check by our healthy immune systems.
In some cases, the virus can be reactivated as shingles.
Who is a Risk of developing Shingles? According to some sources, If you have never had chicken pox or been vaccinated for it, you are off the hook, however people with a lowered immune system are also at high risk for developing shingles. Also babies and pregnant women are at risk of getting chicken pox if they have not had this virus.
When your immune system lets down its guard, the virus takes the opportunity to become active again. However some studies show that if you get Shingles the chance of encountering this painful virus again are slim.
The risk of developing shingles is much higher in older people. In fact, the chances of the virus becoming reactivated doubles every 10 years over the age of 50.
What are the symptoms of Shingles? The active shingles virus follows along the nerve where it was dormant. Most often, it presents itself in a band on one side of the body. Shingles is commonly on the torso, but can occur anywhere, including your face and extremities.
The first symptom that you may experience is pain, itching, burning or tingling along the nerve and the skin surrounding it. In some cases, this may be the only symptom you have. Most people will go on to develop a rash within the next 1-5 days. The skin over the affected nerve will look red and inflamed, and there will be a blistery, itchy rash — like chicken pox. Each blister will stay for about a week to 10 days before drying up and turning a crusty yellow. You may also experience flu-like symptoms (fever, fatigue, headaches) while you have the rash.
I was in shock at seeing the rash looking like it turned into second degree burns! It felt and looked like something burned me! The red bumpy rash was very painful to the touch. Eventually the rash started to break off.
So I was reading from one website where this person states you should not go see your doctor about this condition due to what they will prescribe to you, which are painkillers, anti-depressants, and topical petrochemical creams. They further state that the doctors only make you sicker. In my case if I would of left the care to just myself, I probably would of gotten worse and possibly encounter threatening health effects. These effects are;
- Scars on the skin
- Secondary infections from the open lesions
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which includes facial paralysis and loss of hearing
- Disseminated infection, in which the disease affects more than one side of the body. In this instance, the rash and symptoms will be very severe and may lead to pneumonia or liver and brain infection
- Zoster opthalmicus, in which the nerves of the eye are involved. This can lead to blindness
- Postherpetic neuralgia, in which the nerves become damaged by the virus. This will cause the patient to continue to have pain, even after the other signs of infection are long gone
If you think you might have shingles, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Getting started on appropriate therapy in a timely manner greatly reduces your risk of long-term complications from shingles.
I figure it is best to check in with a trusted Doctor and also treat oneself with alternative treatments. My Doctor prescribed acyclovir and gabapentin. The acyclovir is an anti-viral drug that although it will not kill the virus it will help shorten the length of time until the rash heals and decrease pain symptoms. Gabapentin is a pain medication that numbs the nerves rather than the brain, which I appreciate since I hate feeling out of it all of the time. I even hate feeling drunk so I only drink socially, and not to medicate. Gabapentin does make one dizzy and blurs your vision, however it is not as harsh as Tramadol, which numbs up my mind and makes me really dizzy. Also Tramadol causes nightmares or causes the patient to say awake all night wired up!
Any way I prefer to aim towards integrative medicine. Which is why I really like and appreciate Dr. Andrew Weil!
Dr. Weil knows of no vitamins or supplement regimen to prevent shingles. Acupuncture and hypnosis can help relieve pain, either the acute pain of early onset, or the residual pain known as post herpetic neuralgia. You can also use topical capsaicin (the substance that makes red chilies hot). This depletes nerve cells of “substance P,” a natural chemical that is involved in sending pain signals to the brain. Rub the cream on the affected area of skin three times a day. It may hurt more during the first few days of application, but pain will resolve over time.
Capsaicin cream is sold over-the-counter as Zostrix or Capzasin-P. Another way to deplete substance P and potentially gain relief from the itching is to expose the affected skin to hot water for 30-60 seconds. This works very well for contact dermatitis from plants like poison ivy, and may be effective here as well. A third topical therapy is turmeric paste. This Ayurvedic remedy uses 3 tablespoons of turmeric with 3 cps of water and boils this into a paste for at least 8 minutes (you may have to add more water). Be aware that turmeric can stain clothes and plastic container, so be careful when applying to affected area.
In addition, a vaccine to prevent shingles has been recently approved by the FDA for use in people age 60 and older. The new vaccine, Zostavax, isn’t perfect – it works about 50 percent of the time. However, people who developed shingles despite receiving the vaccine seemed to have less severe cases than did those who got the placebo. Zostavax did prevent postherpetic neuralgia in 67 percent of the people studied. The vaccine seemed to be most effective in people 60-69 years old but also provided some protection for older groups. Side effects were mostly redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the injection site and headache. The vaccine is somewhat expensive – typically between $150 to $200.
Having had an unpleasant case of shingles, Dr. Weil is inclined to recommend the vaccine for those at risk.Other natural recommendations are a natural, holistic approach to shingles that takes into account that Shingles is part of the herpes family of viruses. When it is treated appropriately, the virus outbreak will be short-lived. Herpes can only thrive in a body with a weakened immune system. The herpes family of viruses are particularly effected by a person’s L-arginine to L-lysine ratio. These are natural amino acids that are found inside the human body, but they come from foods. There must be a greater level of arginine in the body for herpes viruses to thrive.
Lysine is found in proteins, dairy, and most vegetables. Arginine is found in nuts, chocolate, and tomatoes. Follow the list of these foods to ensure that the diet is higher in lysine foods, until the outbreak passes.
Foods with Lysine, which are encouraged are, All Meats, Fish, Yogurt, Cheese, Milk, Eggs, Apples, Pears, Apricots, Avocados, Pineapples, Green Beans, and Asparagus.
Foods with Arginine and should be avoided are, Tomatoes, Wheat Germ, Brussels sprouts, Cashews, Grapes, Pumpkin Seeds, Pecans, Blackberries, Blueberries, Peanuts, Chocolate and Sugars.
Currently I am still battling Shingles, however I did get some help from these articles and came up with my own regiment, which is ingesting Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey three times a day which acts as a natural anti-viral, and splashing Aloe Vera on the rash area, which brings healing to my skin.
Make sure you know the signs of Shingles and act fast like I did. Getting a hold of a doctor in my opinion is crucial especially in putting a stop to worsening conditions of Shingles, and also when it comes to being approved for time off of work. The leave group will not take your word for it.
I found having time away from a stressful work environment to be very healing and restful and communicating with my Doctor to be educational and enlightening to how to treat and recover and get back into life again!
Thank you for reading!
Neil Saint Angeland
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