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How do you treat Shingles?

how do you treat shinglesHaving a skin disease will be a sure-fire way to be pissed off or freak out. This post is all about “how do you treat shingles?” where you will learn how you could erase this skin problem not only on the surface but also within your inner body. So then, let’s discuss its causes and its treatment.

How come there is this disease called Shingles?

People who contract chickenpox especially the children have the herpes zoster virus that causes it to lay dormant inside their bodies. Sometimes, this latent virus gets revived in adults whose immune system are suppressed due to illness, stress or other reasons. This herpes zoster virus becomes the culprit for the disease known as shingles and it is most common in adults over the age of 60.

How will I know if I have this? What are the symptoms?

Being caused by the same virus, shingles is similar to chickenpox and it presents as fluid-filled oozing blisters that will eventually become dry, crusty and then, heal. The first symptom of this is usually a tingling or burning pain under the skin because of the nerve involvement in shingles. Next comes the itchy rashes or blisters which generally occur only on one side or an area of the body. These rashes may also occur as a band along the path of the nerve. Also, other symptoms may include fever, chills, stomach pain or digestive problems. Lymph node enlargement can also be a symptom too.

In some cases, complications may arise from this skin disease because if the affected area is not kept clean and dry, bacteria may proliferate in the area and cause infection. Do you think these are only the symptoms? Actually, there’s more!

Postherpetic neuralgia is caused by nerve damage due to shingles and is characterized by nerve pain and tingling that may persist for up to several years after the rash has cleared. Another serious complication is Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which can occur when the skin disease affects the face. Its common symptoms are facial paralysis, loss of taste, earache and partial or complete deafness. Shingles may also affect the eye area causing blindness or it can reach the brain that might cause brain inflammation leading to serious problems and even death.

How will I treat this?

As in the case of most other viral diseases, there is no cure for this and it usually clears up on its own after a period of three to five weeks. However, due to the intensity of its pain and discomfort, doctors usually prescribe their patients medicines to control symptoms, reduce pain and shorten the healing period. Patients can also opt for natural treatments to ease their discomfort.

Ideally, they should begin a course of the anti-viral drug like acyclovir, famciclovir or valacyclovir within 72 hours from the time when the rashes appeared. Antiviral treatment usually lasts between 7 to 10 days and it reduces the severity of the pain and blisters, shortens the span of the disease and also prevents the development of complications like postherpetic neuralgia.

Doctors also prescribe pain medicines, ranging from common over-the-counter analgesics like Aspirin to stronger prescription narcotics or opioids. In more severe cases, some physicians recommend the use of topical anaesthetics like benzocaine or anaesthetic patches that can release a small dose of Lidocaine into the affected area to control the pain. Also, anaesthetic treatment can be continued if the patient suffers from postherpetic neuralgia even after the shingles clears up.

Anti-inflammatory drugs, antihistamines, like Benadryl, and corticosteroids are helpful in calming the inflamed and itchy rashes. Antidepressants and anticonvulsants, like gabapentin, are also commonly prescribed to patients. These can suppress the nervous system and relieve pain, making the condition more bearable and comfortable for them.

What are the natural treatments for this?

Topical lotions, like calamine, petroleum jelly and other unscented creams soothe irritation and reduce itching. You can also buy Burow’s solution or known as aluminium acetate solution at pharmacies and it helps the blisters to dry quicker and to stop oozing. Oral colloidal silver is an antiviral dietary supplement and it reduces the proliferation of viruses in the body, controlling the intensity of the disease.

Several natural treatment options are also available through oatmeal baths to soothe the rash, cornstarch to dry the blisters and capsaicin (pepper extract) to reduce pain. Vitamin supplements and lysine-rich foods that have protein and dairy products are known to increase the body’s immunity against viruses, inhibit viral replication, speed up healing and decrease nerve pain. Proteolytic enzyme supplements can prevent viral replication, decrease the severity and shorten the duration of shingles.

Herbal remedies like lemon balm, licorice and passionflower reduce anxiety and pain and these can even counter the herpes zoster virus. Aside from these, keeping the affected area clean and dry and wearing loose or airy clothes is important to prevent further bacterial infection. Applying cool compresses or soaking the blistered skin in cool water may relieve pain and help crusted blisters fall off.

If shingles spreads to your face, nose or eyes, you should visit a doctor immediately to avoid the development of serious complications.

Can I get injections or vaccinations to fight this disease?

The vaccination for chickenpox (VZV) can usually protect both children and young adults from the zoster virus but its effectiveness reduces as one ages. Recently, a new vaccine called Zostavax has been approved for use in patients over 60. It has been successful in reducing its shingles cases by about 50% amongst vaccinated adults and also in decreasing the severity of it from those who had contracted the infection.

Is this skin disease contagious?

Everyone, including you must be careful because it is contagious and care must be taken while coming in contact with an infected person. A person who has not had chickenpox will most probably contract it. However, he or she cannot get it directly from another shingles-affected individual. The time that the person will get it is when he or she has direct or indirect contact with the fluid in the blisters. Fluid in the blisters is infectious. Clothes and towels that have touched shingles-infected skin should be disinfected by washing in hot water before being used by someone else.

The ways on, how do you treat shingles will surely be helpful in reducing your discomfort while getting this healed. Even no medication can help to clear this up immediately, antiviral and natural treatments can help speed up the healing process and reduce the duration and intensity of the illness. Patients are, therefore, advised to rest and supplement themselves with a healthy diet and medicines prescribed by their doctor to soothe pain, calm the inflamed areas and have a speedy recovery as possible.

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Vaccine for shingles virus

Shingles injection

The varicella zoster virus causes shingles or herpes zoster. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus stays in a person’s body after he/she has recovered from chicken pox. The chickenpox virus or varicella-zoster virus can stay in a dormant state in dorsal root ganglia and can flare up years later, causing shingles. The virus causes a flu-like illness by becoming active in two or three nerve roots. As immunity wanes naturally with advancing age, it can result in reactivation of varicella-zoster virus as herpes zoster.

Though shingles can appear anywhere on the body, it usually appears as a band of irritated skin or blisters on one side of the back or chest. It can also occur on one side of the face and can also affect the eye which can lead to loss of vision. The pain caused by the rashes is often described by patients as burning, stabbing, itching or aching.  The rash and pain of shingles usually lasts two to four weeks in most cases as the blisters scab over and clear up within that period. Even after the rash has disappeared some people experience lingering pain in the nerve for many years which is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). Two out of every ten people with shingles go on to develop post-herpetic neuralgia.

Fever, headache, chills and upset stomach are several symptoms of shingles. Fifty percent of shingles cases occur among men and women aged sixty years and above due to the vulnerable immune system of aged people. A person cannot catch shingles from another person with shingles. When a person with shingles transmits the varicella-zoster virus to someone who has never had chickenpox then the newly infected person might develop chickenpox but would not develop shingles.

Is getting vaccinated safe?

Getting vaccinated is the only way of reducing the risk of developing shingles. Till 2006, nothing could be done to prevent shingles. On 25th May 2006, U.S. Food and Drug administration approved a herpes zoster vaccine and it was also recommended by Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices for preventing shingles in individuals aged sixty years and above. The vaccination for shingles is recommended for use in people aged sixty years and above since the effects of shingles is severe in older people. The brand name of the vaccine for shingles is called Zostavax. The generic name is zoster vaccine live. The zoster vaccine contains a weakened varicella-zoster virus and it helps arouse a person’s immune system to fight disease caused by the chickenpox virus. The zoster vaccine does not treat shingles or post-herpetic neuralgia. It is given as a single 0.65ml dose by an injection under the skin in the upper arm.

How effective the vaccine is in reducing risk and for how long?

Any person who has had chickenpox is at the risk of developing shingles. The shingles vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by fifty percent in the clinical trials. Though it is difficult to be accurate, research suggests that the vaccine protects a person for at least three years. A shingles vaccine particularly protects a person against shingles and not against other forms of herpes viruses such as genital herpes. It should also be noted that the zoster vaccine does not protect everyone. Some people still get shingles even after getting vaccinated. Once a person fully recovers after getting infected from shingles, his/her immunity to the varicella-zoster virus gets boosted and it may help protect that person from getting shingles again. It has not been demonstrated in clinical research whether the zoster vaccine is effective in preventing repeated episodes of shingles. Research data also suggest that physical and mental trauma may play a role in triggering an outbreak of herpes zoster.

Following individuals should not get shingles vaccine if:

  • A person who is suffering from active untreated tuberculosis.
  • A person who has ever had life-threatening allergic reaction to any component of the shingles vaccine like gelatine, neomycin etc.
  • A person having a weak immune system due to AIDS or some other disease which affects the immune system.
  • A person undergoing radiation or chemotherapy as a part of cancer treatment.
  • A person suffering from leukaemia or lymphoma. Patients with leukaemia in diminution can receive zoster vaccine if they have not received radiation or chemotherapy for at least three months.
  • A person undergoing treatment with drugs that affect the immune system such as long term use of high dose steroids.
  • A woman who is pregnant or is about to get pregnant.
  • A person with moderate or severe illness including anyone with a temperature of 101.3 degree Fahrenheit and above. Such a person should only get vaccinated after fully recovering from the illness.

A person with minor illness such as colds may be vaccinated. Like any other medicine, a vaccine could cause problems such as allergic reactions. The risk of a shingles vaccine causing major harm or death is extremely small. Adverse effects of the zoster vaccine are mild. Mild problems such as soreness, redness, swelling or itching at the site of the injection and headache can occur.

According to the results of clinical trials, administration of live zoster vaccine in older individuals reduces the burden of illness associated with shingles to the extent of 61.1% and the incidence of shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia to the extent of 51.3% and 66.5% respectively.

How to relieve Shingles pain

Shingles relief

Image source: NIAID on Flickr

Once you have shingles, it is urgent to treat it. While the matter is with shingles relief, every step taken during the initial stages can undoubtedly save you from nasty damages. To avoid the pain and panic, know the initial remedies and medical measures to treat your nasty skin disease accurately, making it heal faster.

If you had never caught shingles, now is the best time to learn how to treat it and what to avoid so you will know what to do in case you become affected by this disease. Aside from that, you may also prevent having shingles. If you have caught Shingles already, don’t worry, you can minimize it with proper tools and methods of treatments. There are many ways to opt for in order to heal shingles properly and one of the easiest ways is to do it at your home.

Under severe conditions, you need to have a medical consultation and take prescribed medicines, as well as changing your lifestyle. However, the most important of all is you need to know what exactly shingles is and how someone can be a victim of this skin disease. Of course, you do not need to have an encyclopedic knowledge on entire medical science to treat shingles but some information will help you safeguard yourself against the panic, despair and utter pain of being infected by Shingles.

What is Shingles?

Shingles is caused by a virus attack called Varicella-Zoster and it is the same virus that is responsible for making patients suffer from Chicken Pox. Your itchy and blistery skin could be the sign of this disease. Moreover, it might cause an inflammation to your cranial nerve or spinal area. If you have seen someone else being attacked with this before, you are lucky to know how it would harm you and by this, you are already prepared. If you have not seen the symptoms of shingles yet, you might wrongly guess the skin disease you have got. So, as soon as you see any inflammation or blister on your skin, do not disregard this. Act as soon as possible to treat this. The most common victims of this disease are people of old age who were affected by chicken pox during their childhood. Some may also be affected if their mothers had shingles during pregnancy.

How to relieve it against itch and pain?

Use an ice-water soaked cloth on the blister for 20 to 25 minutes. You should observe and see the signs of pain reduction after doing this. If the pain persists, repeat the process again. Keep repeating this procedure until the pain subsides and when you feel more comfortable. If you are not able to avail ice immediately, get your cloth soaked in water and apply this on the affected area for the time being. You should collect ice after using this.

Upon consultation with your physician, you will certainly prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen or Aspirin to lessen the pain and antiviral drugs such as Valaciclovir, Famciclovir and Aciclovir to reduce inflammation.

Try availing local anesthetic cream which can be used topically on the blisters in accordance with what your physician prescribes. Avoid buying unknown over-the-counter creams because these can produce side effects and may turn your skin into its worst and ugliest condition. Buy lotions or creams containing calamine.

Follow these procedures:

  • Soak 1 tablespoon of dried lemon balm leaves in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes (Boiled water is preferred on this occasion). Do this three to four times a day. Lemon balm consists of citric acid which stops the further reproduction of virus and helps the blister heal fast. You can also use zinc and selenium which are available in an antioxidant formula.
  • Get adequate meals daily. Try to consume more fruits and vegetables so you will have enough resistance to fight the virus existing in your body. Try to get enough rest so you will have a stronger immune system. Since the healing of shingles requires natural remedies or doctor prescribed medications, do not waste your time waiting for it to heal on its own. As long as the virus is in your body, you need to consistently receive proper medical treatment and effective medication.
  • If you are buying medicines again and the sores become dry, you may apply corn starch or baking soda while waiting for your medicines.

Things to Remember

  • People, who have caught chicken pox earlier, have greater probability of being struck by shingles. So, if you are on your 60s, you should be more aware of its symptoms and prepare for it.
  • In order to stay away from scratching, cut your fingernails and consider wearing gloves. Under severe conditions, gloves will save you from random scratching. Scratching will allow you to spread the disease into other parts of the body.
  • Avoid piercing the blisters because popped blisters will result in having ugly scars or body marks.
  • Shingles may cause you eye problems if the surrounding nerves of your eyes are infected. In this case, you need to immediately contact an eye-specialist.

How many days will Shingles rashes fade?

After the blisters popped, Shingles’ scabs and crust will normally fade within 7 – 10 days. Some may get vaccines to prevent the shingles from coming again.

Whatever the reasons are, it is very important to know the shingles relief. As pain becomes consistent or becomes worse, you will surely could not endure it. However, shingles treatment may require proper care and maintenance as well. You may need to leave your bad health habits and follow a healthier lifestyle in order to get the desired longevity but first of all you, need to become free from depression. Depression can be one of the worst effects as this skin disease makes the patient look ugly. If you are depressed, your physician will prescribe you to take anti-depressant drugs. Since there are proper treatments available, you don’t have to be depressed at all. Get well and make yourself beautiful again inside and out.