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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.

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Natural treatment of shingles

natural shingles treatment

Did you ever feel headache, nausea or any side effects using drugs or pills? If yes, natural treatment of shingles is for you. Aside from taking organic and healthier alternatives, fewer side effects will be experienced. Having second thoughts about using this? Well, just take a look at the information provided below.

Okay, Please tell me what is Shingles?

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox or varicella zoster virus in adults. It usually occurs in people over the age of 60 who have a weak immune system, are stressed or ill. The most common symptom of shingles is the itchy, painful fluid-filled blisters that are present on the skin, usually on one side of the body. These blisters or sores will eventually dry out, crust over and heal on their own within 3 to 5 weeks.

While there is no known cure to treat this, certain natural remedies can be used to reduce the painful, burning sensation, duration and severity of the disease. Natural treatments are better to be used in combination with anti-viral medicines prescribed by a physician.

I need to soothe my rashes, how will I make these less itchy?

Soak the affected area with blisters in cool water or use a cool and wet towel as a compress to ease discomfort. Dip the affected part in hot water for around 30 seconds, so for you to have a temporary relief from itching.  Colloidal oatmeal or starch powder added to lukewarm baths can relieve the irritation and help you relax. Zinc and Vitamin E or aloe vera balms can also be applied to the sores to bring temporary relief. These powders and salves are available by over the counter at pharmacies.

How do I manage the pain?

Several natural or homemade treatments can be used topically to lessen pain and itching. Capsaicin is a chemical extracted from peppers, which when applied on the skin, causes nerve cells to release all their pain-sensing “substance P” neurotransmitters at once. Nerves then become incapable of transmitting pain signals to the brain for a while and because of this, capsaicin acts now as a natural pain reliever. Capsaicin is available by over the counter at drug stores in the form of creams and powders for topical treatment.

Can I use ice to manage pain and inflammation?

Yes. During the first few days, while the blisters are fresh, applying an ice pack for a few minutes several times a day can help you manage the pain and inflammation. Turmeric paste, honey, peppermint and geranium oil have been proven to reduce pain, possess antiseptic properties and are widely used for natural Ayurvedic treatment of shingles. Just be careful of using turmeric because it can stain your clothes so make sure you will just wear your house clothes. The Apple cider vinegar compress can also help you to control pain and itching.

I am done in soothing the blisters and managing the pain, how do I naturally heal shingles?

Apply cornstarch or baking soda so blisters will dry faster and will hasten the healing. These can be applied a few times a day, left on for a quarter of an hour and then properly wash off. Garlic juice mixed with olive oil can be applied to ease itching and speed up healing.

How will I have a good or balanced diet?

Diet can also affect the healing process. The essential amino acids, L-Lysine, interrupts viral replication while L-Arginine promotes the increase of the viruses. Because of these, patients are advised to maintain a higher L-Lysine to L-Arginine ratio. Lysine-rich foods include protein from meat, dairy and vegetables. Foods like sugar, chocolate, berries, nuts and tomatoes that are rich in Arginine should be avoided. Studies have proven that consumption of 1000mg of Lysine thrice a day decreases the duration and intensity of shingles. Natural dietary supplements like vitamin A, B complex, C, D and E are beneficial for shingles treatment. Vitamin A, C and D can strengthen the immune system. Vitamin C inhibits viral replication, Vitamin E aids in the healing of blistered skin and will prevent nerve damage and Vitamin B12 can be taken to decrease nerve pain that is commonly associated with shingles. Another supplement that is known to heighten immunity and speed up the healing process is flax seed or acidophilus bacteria powder which can also be bought at drugstores or pharmacies.

Proteolytic enzymes are protein-digesting enzymes that occur naturally in the human body and additional supplements can be obtained from papayas (papain), pineapples (bromelain) and animal sources (pepsin, trypsin, etc.). These enzymes digest the protein casing of the herpes zoster virus, slowing down its replication, decreasing pain, improving the condition of the skin and reducing the side effects of the anti-viral medicines. Naturally derived proteolytic enzyme supplements are available at most drugstores and can be taken orally.

Are there herbs and other alternative medicines?

Research is also underway to find herbal remedies like licorice root, passionflower and lemon balm. These have been found to heighten immunity, soothe inflammation and reduce anxiety. Lemon balm specifically attacks herpes viruses and can be applied topically to reduce blistering and heal the affected skin.

Some may prefer to be treated by alternative medicine such as having acupuncture and hypnosis to lessen the pain successfully.

How do I prevent it from making it worse?

Pat the skin dry after its exposure to water to prevent bacterial infection. The skin should be kept clean by washing this with a mild soap several times a day. Once the blisters crust over, soaking these blisters in tap water can help clean away crusts, decrease oozing and soothe itching and pain. The rashes should not be covered with bandages, plasters or tight clothes. Not only do this slowdown the healing process, but this can also cause bacteria to proliferate and infect the area.

Since shingles is communicable, all towels or clothes coming in contact with the affected skin should be washed in hot water before reusing or disposing it off. If you do not wash the towels and clothes properly, the virus can easily infect others due to skin contact and inhalation of airborne disease.

How long does it heal?

This viral disease will take its own sweet time to clear up despite all medications and natural treatments so it will be best if you will use your three weeks’ time to catch up on your rest and relaxation which can help to speed up the healing process.

While these natural treatments can help you cope with the shingles pain, it is strongly advised that patients should visit a doctor within 24 to 72 hours from the first appearance of the rashes so proper diagnosis and antiviral treatment prescription can be given and chances of complications and long-term effects are also reduced as well.

You don’t have to fret about side effects and pills. You can just use natural shingles treatment and become less worried about taking other important medications. You can now live and heal as naturally as possible but remember if the disease gets worse, seek a doctor’s help and take both natural and drug treatments so you can escape as soon as possible from the agony of having shingles.