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Healing Shingles

healing shinglesWaking up and seeing rashes on the mirror makes the person annoyed. Working or attending classes will be disrupted due that the affected person will be embarrassed to show his or her face to the public. Healing shingles might be the solution for this.

What is shingles?

The word “Shingles” is derived from the Latin word cingulum meaning “girdle”. It is the common name that is used to refer to a viral infection that is medically referred to as Herpes Zoster.

The term “Zoster” originates from the Greek word meaning “belt” because of the characteristic “belt-like” or “stripe like” rash that is caused by this disease.

What causes shingles?

This disease is caused by the reactivation of the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) which is primarily responsible for causing chicken pox in childhood. After the primary infection has subsided this virus remains latent for several years together in the dorsal root ganglia of the body only to get to get reactivated in individuals who are either immunocompromised or have recently experienced a stressful life event. It is more common after the age of 60.

How do I know If I have shingles?

  • A person who has contracted this disease would initially experience only non-specific symptoms like  low grade fever, headache and malaise followed by sensations of itching, “pins and needles “or tingling numbness. This is accompanied by a tingling, aching, stinging or throbbing nerve pain which may vary from mild to severe. This is the initial phase of the disease and would typically last anywhere between two to three days and three weeks.
  • Next there would be the appearance of a rash which initially gives the appearance of hives but gradually changes to give the characteristic belt-like or stripe like appearance. It is always confined to a single dermatome or one single side of the body and never crosses the midline to the other side. It is this peculiar feature of the disease which helps to aid in its diagnosis.
  • The most common area of the body where you would expect to encounter such a rash would be on the torso or lower back but it can also occur on the face, eyes, mouth and tongue due to the involvement of the branches of the trigeminal nerve. When it occurs in the eyes it is referred to as Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus.
  • Finally vesicles appear on the skin which are blister like in appearance and are filled with a clear watery fluid. They continue to form for the next 3-5 days.
  • These painful blisters eventually become filled with blood. Later they develop crusts which eventually fall off. The disease may last for as long as 7-10 days and it may take as long as 2-4 weeks for the skin to return to normal.

What Shingles remedies can I find at home?

While it is mandatory to see a physician in the event that you have contracted the disease, home remedies may often help to provide temporary relief. Some home remedies that may prove effective include:

  • Using Cold packs or cold compresses to  help relieve the pain
  • Gently place a cold towel or pour ice water over the affected area. It can help to soothe the pain.
  • The affected portion of the body should be washed with soap and water.
  • Calamine lotion can help to alleviate any itching or discomfort.
  • Get plenty of bedrest in order to hasten a speedy recovery from the illness.
  • Ibuprofen helps reduce inflammation is therefore considered the drug of choice. Aspirin may be another useful option and is available at your local pharmacy. If you are allergic to aspirin or ibuprofen, ask your doctor to prescribe something for the pain.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a topical local anesthetic cream to be used for the blisters.
  • A wet compress soaked with aluminum acetate can be both soothing and cleansing.
  • Further spread of bacteria can be avoided by meticulous skin care, particularly with cutting of fingernails.
  • Resist the temptation to pop the blisters! It will only worsen the scarring and prolong the healing process.
  • Wear loose clothing.
  • Avoid any close contact with those people who have not had chickenpox, or are immunocompromised.

What is the treatment for Shingles?

The main aim of treatment is to reduce the severity of the pain, shorten the duration of a shingles episode, and prevent complications from occurring in the future.

Analgesics

People with mild to moderate pain can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications.

Antivirals

  • Patients with herpes zoster benefit from oral antiviral therapy.
  • Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, or Famciclovir administered daily for 5-7 days leads to accelerated healing of lesions and resolution of the pain.
  • For low-risk immunocompromised patients, oral therapy with Valacyclovir or Famciclovir may be beneficial.
  • Corticosteroids may be useful to deal acute pain but have not shown any beneficial effects on long term pain.

Steroids

  • In addition opioids like morphine or oxycodone should be used to treat postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) as they minimize the pain.

Can Shingles Be Prevented by Vaccines?

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has approved a vaccine for adult shingles known as Zostavax in those individuals who are over the age of 50 and have had chicken pox.
  • Only one dose is required to be administered in adults and subsequent booster dozes are not required.
  • Research has shown that this vaccine greatly contributed to reducing the risk of a shingles outbreak. In addition it was found to be very effective in reducing symptoms of this disease and also preventing the occurrence of post-herpetic neuralgia.A systematic review by the Cochrane Library concluded that 1 episode of shingles was prevented for every 70 patients who received this vaccine.
  • Previous attacks of Herpes Zoster have been shown to confer immunity on the individual and reduce the risk of a recurrence.
  • Always insist on getting vaccinated regardless of whether you have had Herpes in the past .Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ACIP recommend the vaccination of all adults irrespective of whether they have contracted the disease in the past or not.
  • A study conducted in 2007 found that the zoster vaccine was likely to be cost-effective in the United States.
  • Ongoing studies are being used to evaluate the effectiveness of this vaccine long-term. In the Shingles Prevention Study (SPS), vaccine efficacy was maintained through four years of follow-up.
  • However this vaccine cannot be administered to pregnant women.
  • If you have taken the shingles vaccine you should wait at least three months before trying to get pregnant.
  • Those individuals who have a weakened immune system due to HIV, cancer treatment or other conditions should not take the shingles vaccine because it contains live attenuated viral particles.

Healing shingles is a way to enjoy your life again and return to normal activities. Maintain a healthy diet and often go to non-polluted places for you to have a longer healthy life.

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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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Internal Shingles

We have tackled in this website about Shingles, now, we will focus on Internal Shingles. But, first, let’s recap about Shingles and then, we will proceed about the main topic.

Introduction to Shingles

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a very painful skin rash or blisters on an area of the skin. This viral disease is very common in adults especially those who have weak immune systems because of having stress, injury and taking various medications. This skin disease is caused by Varicella-zoster virus or what we call the zoster virus, the same virus which is also the main cause of chickenpox. Usually, when a child heals from chickenpox, when he or she reaches adulthood, the virus might still remain in his or her body and lies inactive, and then, it will become active again and here comes the Shingles.

Can Shingles be internal and have no rash?

Yes, and this will be called as Internal shingles. It may also involve rashes inside the mouth or ear. Eyes, brain, muscle and nerve problems are the main organs involved in this.

Internal Shingles

This attacks the nerves in the body and may also not involve rashes and blisters. It is very rare. The very common symptoms are flu-like symptoms (flu that often occurs without fever), pain and movement problems. Other symptoms are sensitivity to light, diarrhea, headaches and stomach aches. Some of the symptoms of internal shingles can be very dangerous and can cause severe complications to the body. This disease is not life-threatening as long as you have performed an early diagnosis that is measured at the right time. You can control this easily and will prevent further spread of the infection.

Diagnosis, Signs and Symptoms

  • Flu-like symptoms but no fever
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach aches
  • Numbness
  • Movement problems
  • Pain
  • Burning or tickling sensations where the rashes will appear

The prevalent ones:

  • Oral pain where blisters or lesions are inside your mouth and the pain will affect your eating.
  • Lymph node swelling happens when your body’s immune system is resisting the virus. It is found in the groin area, underneath the arms or side of the neck.
  • Encephalitis – occurs because Shingles attacks the nerves of (also others that are connected) the brain which will result into swelling and inflammation of the brain. If you are experiencing this symptom, visit a doctor immediately because this might lead into a life threatening condition.

Tests to identify the Shingles virus

If the symptoms are not obvious in some patients especially the immunosuppressed ones, to detect Shingles, physicians will perform one or more tests. Also, the tests will usually aim to distinguish herpes simplex virus and varicella-zoster virus.

The tests that they do are: Immunofluorescence Assay, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and Virus Culture.

Immunofluorescence Assay is performed by using UV rays applied to cells taken from the zoster blisters. Presence of antibodies can be identified depending on the specific characteristics of light seen through a microscope. It is thought to be cheaper, faster and more accurate than performing a virus culture.

Virus Culture – taking specimens from the blisters, spinal fluid or fluid inside the blisters. For vaccinated patients, this is useful to determine if the internal shingles infection was caused by a natural virus or by the vaccine that they had taken before.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is performed to identify the infection in the central nervous system (brain and nerves). It replicates a piece of the DNA of the virus up to millions of times until the virus can be detected.

COMPLICATIONS

Internal Shingles Complications

ComplicationsProblems
Postherpetic neuralgiaBurning and throbbing nerve pain, symptoms include extreme sensitivity to light touch and temperature change, numbness, itching, headaches and sudden or occasional pain. Worse, the affected person might experience muscle weakness or become paralyzed due to uncontrolled muscle movements.
Ramsay Hunt SyndromeFacial nerve paralysis (facial palsy) and having a rash on mouth or the ear.

Also, it may be accompanied by other frequent signs and symptoms such as hearing loss, facial weakness or face drop, nausea, tinnitus, nystagmus (oscillation of the eyes) and vertigo (type of dizziness).
Hutchinson’s SignVesicles on the tip of the nose, or vesicles on the side of the nose are involved from facial herpes zoster - ophthalmic herpes zoster

Skin - Melanonychia, Periungual hyperpigmentation.
Neurological problemsBalance problems, hearing problems, facial paralysis or inflammation. These conditions can be very dangerous and can result to coma or death.
Loss of Vision (Ocular or Optical Shingles)Lack of sensation in the eye, pain, redness, swollen eyelids, blurry vision, discharge from the eyes, and temporary or permanent blindness.
Other internal organsBlisters to affect internal organs including lungs, gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system and the brain. Pneumonia and other breathing problems can occur if the lungs become affected.

Postherpetic neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia is a persistent nerve pain that occurs to some patients within 2-4 weeks after healing from Shingles or often referred to as post-shingles pain.

If you are still experiencing pain after your shingles rashes are cleared up, you might have caught this.

After healing from Shingles, the zoster virus still remains in the patient’s body. It invades the bloodstream and damages the nerve fibers thus, become confused resulting in sending uncontrolled and inaccurate signals to the brain which causes burning and throbbing nerve pain.

As of the present, nobody knows why some patients are experiencing this and why some are not.

Symptoms

Aside from the mentioned burning and throbbing nerve pain, symptoms include extreme sensitivity to light touch and temperature change, numbness, itching, headaches and sudden or occasional pain. Worse, the affected person might experience muscle weakness or become paralyzed due to uncontrolled muscle movements.

Patients will experience sleeping problems and fatigue. Postherpetic neuralgia lasts in one month or if severe, may last up to one year.

internal shingles signs and symptoms

Image from Flickr

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

Also caused by varicella zoster virus, RHS is known as auricular herpes zoster or herpes zoster oticus when referring only to the ear rash. It is a rare neurological disorder and can be characterized by facial nerve paralysis (facial palsy) and having a rash on mouth or the ear. Same with postherpetic neuralgia, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome occurs when the previously zoster virus becomes active again and spreads to the facial nerve.

There is often pain in the ear. Also, it may be accompanied by other frequent signs and symptoms such as hearing loss, facial weakness or face drop, nausea, tinnitus, nystagmus (oscillation of the eyes) and vertigo (type of dizziness).

Sometimes, people find it difficult to distinguish Ramsay Hunt Syndrome from Bell’s palsy in early stages but in general, RHS tends to be more serious and severe than Bell’s palsy. Also, RHS has rashes/blisters while Bell’s palsy don’t. Not all cases of RHS has rashes but it can be still RHS as long as it was caused by zoster virus.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Diagnosis

To tell easier and accurately if you really have a Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, your physician will.do one or more of the flowing:

Physical Examination

  • The doctor will observe you especially your face and ear to know if the symptoms are present.

Hearing Test

  • Tested through tuning forks or audiometry (wearing earphones in usually a soundproof booth / room)

Otoscope Ear Examination

  • Your doctor will check your auricle (visible part) and ear canal for lesions (that might indicate the varicella-zoster virus’ presence) using an otoscope.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test

  • It involves caloric testing and tracking a moving object or field to be able to determine the degree of vestibular impairment.

Fluorescein Eye Strain

  • Used to detect cornea damage and the outer surface of the eye by using orange dye (fluorescin) and a blue light.

Electromyography

  • A nerve conduction test using contact pads or fine-scale conductive probes to determine facial nerve damage and its potential for recovery.

Lumbar Puncture

  • When diagnosis is not clear, in rare cases, a spinal tap is used. After numbing with an anesthetic, from the spinal column, a cerebral fluid is taken by using a spinal needle to test it for evidence of zoster virus.

Blood test, MRI, CT (Computed Tomography) Scan, and Eye test (checking dryness and change of vision).

Hutchinson’s Sign

If for vesicles on the tip of the nose, or vesicles on the side of the nose are involved from facial herpes zoster, it precedes the development of ophthalmic herpes zoster thus, implies the involvement of the nasal branch of the nasociliary nerve that raises the specter of involvement of the eye.

If for the skin, it involves the pigmentation of the proximal nail fold which is also known Melanonychia. It also suggests subungual melanoma when there is pigmentation in the paronychial area or known as Periungual hyperpigmentation.

Neurological problems

Balance problems, hearing problems, facial paralysis or inflammation might be experienced after suffering from a shingles outbreak and may permanently damage the nerves.

These conditions can be very dangerous and can result to coma or death. No worries, these are rare but being prepared will be better.

Loss of Vision

Optical shingles or Ocular shingles is crucial and includes any of these symptoms such as lack of sensation in the eye, pain, redness, swollen eyelids, blurry vision, discharge from the eyes, and temporary or permanent blindness.

Additional symptoms and signs are: severe ocular pain, tingling of forehead, conjunctival episcleral and circumcorneal conjunctival hyperemia, corneal edema, marked eyelid ederma and photophobia.

Its complications include cataract, glaucoma, keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), uveitis (inflammation of uvea/middle layer of the eye) and other corneal problems.

If you are experiencing these (even the minor ones), do not self-medicate and you must seek a doctor’s help immediately.

Other internal organs

It is possible for the virus especially the blisters to affect internal organs including lungs, gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system and the brain. Pneumonia and other breathing problems can occur if the lungs become affected.

Internal Shingles Treatment

Drugs, treatments, home remedies and vaccines

For you not to be surprised, the frequently advised drugs by the doctors are opioid painkillers, anticonvulsants, capsaicin skin patches, lidocaine skin patches, antidepressants and steroids. For treatments, these are TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), and Spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulation.

Aside from capsaicin skin patches, you can avail, capsaicin cream.

If you are in your home and are not planning to buy prescribed medications yet, go for topical analgesics and anesthetics to reduce skin oversensitivity by mixing aspirin into an absorbing cream or lidocaine cream.

Antiviral drugs like Acyclovir, Famciclovir or Valacyclovir can be taken to restrict the virus from replicating.  Normally, it will take 2-5 weeks for internal shingles’ symptoms to be fully resolved. The ones who might show severe symptoms of it are the elders and children.

Ice pack or heat treatment application is temporarily effective in reducing pain. Doing this can help the patients to reduce their urge to scratch their skin.

Internal Shingles pain relief

The pain of shingles especially the internal one is unbearable in its severity. All patients with shingles are given medications that can minimize pain. The pain of herpes zoster affects not only your sleep, mood or work, but also, your quality of life. This often leads to fatigue, loss of appetite and feeling of depression. If you have:

Medicines for Internal Shingles pain

Internal Shingles pain severityMedicines
Mild painOpioids such as Morphine, Tramadol and Fentanyl.
Severe painDarvon, Codeine, or one of the Codeine derivatives such as Vicodin or Percodan.

In order to control shingles pain further, you should take advice from an experienced doctor in homeopathy so he or she can examine your pain and then will prescribe a treatment for it.

Is it contagious?

Some people think that shingles is caused by a virus and viruses are contagious but, it is not a contagious disease though it is caused by the same virus which is responsible for Chickenpox. We can say, Shingles is a second outbreak of the chickenpox virus in the body but it cannot cause other forms of herpes. However, shingles contains infectious VZV and people who have not had chickenpox before can develop easily this virus from daily interaction to patients with Shingles. Shingles can only be spread by direct contact to lesions of the patients. Otherwise, you have minimum chance to develop an infection. For the patients, they can still go outside and perform normal activities like daily work or going to school as long as they prevent spreading the disease by good hygiene and covering their lesions properly.

Shingles in general

Who gets it?

Generally, it is happened in adults especially from ages 50-60 but it does not mean that young people would not be affected.

Aside from aging and weak immune system, medications, stress, various treatments particularly cancer and, if their mothers have shingles during their late pregnancy or had a chickenpox themselves (affected adults) during childhood can also be causes of Shingles. The main cause for this awful and alarming disease is the Vacirella-zoster virus. This virus belongs to a group of viruses called herpesviruses and it hides in the nervous system after the occurrence of initial infection and travels down to the nerve cell fibers to cause a renewed infection.

Difference between Herpes Simplex and Herpes Zoster

Both of these are herpes viruses but different in class and type.

Herpes Zoster or Varicella Zoster-Virus, causes skin rashes or blisters, and is the main culprit for chickenpox and shingles, while Herpes Simplex causes small painful fluid-filled blisters on the eyes, mouth (cold sores), lips and genitals.

Is Herpes Simplex contagious?

HS is more contagious than HZ since anyone has a higher chance of getting the disease just by having direct contact with sores or even on affected areas without sores. Also, Herpes Simplex’s tests such as biopsy of a sore, blood tests, etc. must be conducted to recognize the sores.

Internal Shingles remediesMedications for Shingles

Drugs

Since you have learned above about medicines to treat internal shingles, just take these and the treatments below that can treat shingles blisters, rashes or shingles in general.

To relieve itching and keeping your skin hydrated, unscented lotions especially calamine lotion, moisturizing creams, honey or petroleum jelly are perfect. Using scented moisturizers are not recommended because these may cause irritation and allergies.

For those who want to get a vaccination, Zostavax is recommended.

Home or Natural Remedies

For the blisters to dry faster, Domeboro solution or a cornstarch paste can be applied. Ready-made oatmeal bath mixes can be bought at drugstores or pharmacies to soak your skin and have a clean, soothing, relaxing and calming experience.

Licorice and other plan extracts can soothe skin inflammation while lemon balm counters herpes viruses and aids in healing rashes or cold sores.

Eating, drinking or applying vitamin E supplements is good for healing skin problems and nerve damages. B-complex can strengthen the nervous system which can also reduce nerve pain. Vitamins A and D increase the production of macrophages and killer T-cells, and can fortify the affected person’s immunity system.

Eating a spoonful of flaxseed powder 2x a day, garlic juices or turmeric paste can speed up the healing process because of having antiseptic properties.

Conclusion

To sum these up, we may say that internal shingles can become dangerous, contagious and later on, become deadly if not treated. It must be given more attention so doctors can diagnose the symptoms and can give the patient proper medicines and treatments immediately. Shingles, internal or external, has been caused by the virus Varicella-Zoster virus, also known as, Herpes Zoster. Shingles can happen to people especially to those who already healed from chickenpox but have weak immune systems. It can occur due to the reactivation of this virus inside the body. Generally, it can cause skin rash or blisters.  In some cases, it can cause a severe systemic infection, affecting internal organs of the body and the central nervous system. Doctors often prescribe antiviral medications such as Acyclovir (Zovirax®), Valacyclovir (Valtrex®), and Famciclovir (Famvir®) for its treatment. In most cases, it has been advised that antiviral drugs should be taken within 3 days or 72 hours from the time of the first sign of shingles. To endure pain, doctors may suggest antidepressants. Healthy diet or breathing exercises at home, taking regular meditation, yoga, or tai chi classes will help patients to deal with it. Having a strong immune system and avoiding processed and artificial foods as possible are the simplest methods to prevent having this.

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Shingles Pain Relief

shingles pain reliefAside from seeing the disgusting blisters, an affected person can also experience itching and pain. This is frustrating and you definitely don’t want this to happen so read this Shingles pain relief post and you will surely know what to do if you or your loved ones especially your grandparents were struck by this disease.

Where is Shingles coming from?

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is characterized by skin rashes with burning or shooting pain along a nerve or on a single area of the body. The rashes consist of pustules filled with infectious liquid, which slowly dry, flake and fall off. It occurs due to the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, or chickenpox virus as it is commonly called, which lies dormant in the roots of nerves. Shingles is most common in adults over 60 years of age. Like other viral diseases, there is no proper cure for shingles and the available treatment is to cure the symptoms and reduce the duration and intensity of the rashes. This skin disease automatically clears up within three to five weeks from the first appearance of rashes. The disease is also contagious and care must be taken while coming in contact with infected individuals.

A tingling or burning pain may experience even before the first appearance of the blisters or rashes. Depending on which nerve is affected or involved in the reactivation of the virus, the pain can even be mistaken for headache, stomach pain or even angina (heart or chest pain). This pain continues throughout the duration of the disease and sometimes is so debilitating that the patients are unable to do any work or even rest comfortably.

What are the painkillers or common drugs to relieve pain?

Doctors generally prescribe antiviral drugs like acyclovir or valacyclovir within the first 1-3 days after the rash begins to develop. These antiviral medicines control the length of the episode, and also the degree of severity of blisters and pain.

In almost 15% of the individuals who develop shingles, the pain persists for weeks, months or even years after the rash has disappeared. This complication, known as postherpetic neuralgia, is due to damage to the associated nerve or nerve inflammation during shingles. A 7 to 10 day antiviral course also reduces the chances of complications like post-herpetic neuralgia, facial paralysis, blindness, etc.

To curb pain, patients can take commonly available OTC painkillers like ibuprofen or, in case of extreme pain, can even ask their physician to prescribe a stronger narcotic pain medication like morphine or oxycodone. Some doctors recommend local anaesthetics like Lidocaine, which are available as topical creams or slow-release patches.

Anaesthetics numb the affected area so that the patient does not experience pain for some time. Anaesthetic patches and creams can also be used to treat pain in cases of postherpetic neuralgia complications. In addition, steroid and non-steroid based anti-inflammatory medicines and antihistamine drugs can help soothe the rashes, reduce itching and pain.

Injections that can block pain nerve activity are also available on prescription and can be administered by doctors or qualified practitioners.

Nontraditional treatment includes the use of anti-depressants and anticonvulsant medicines to control pain. Both of these drug types depress nerve activity and, therefore, reduce nerve related pain, which is typical of shingles. All of these medicines allow the affected individual to be more comfortable by considerably lowering pain.

Since the pain associated with shingles is intense and almost unbearable, doctors recommend natural or homemade pain remedies in addition to traditional treatment to help ease the patients’ discomfort.

I just want an over-the-counter medicine as of this moment. What would you recommend?

The most widely used over-the-counter medication for shingles is the capsaicin extract. Capsaicin is extracted from pepper or chili and is very effective for relieving pain. Topical application of capsaicin causes nerves to release all the neurotransmitters that transmit pain signals to the brain and burn out the receptors. Initially, this causes pain to increase, but then the nerves become incapable of transmitting pain signals for a while and the individual cannot feel pain in that area. Capsaicin, pain patches, creams and powders are readily available at local chemist shops or drugstores.

If a patient decides to buy medicines later, what home remedies can he or she do?

Soaking the affected area in cool water or using a cool compress can provide relief from pain and itching for a short while. Some patients find that dipping their skin in hot water intermittently for 30 second periods or using ice packs for short durations numbs the skin from pain thus, giving them temporary comfort.

Washcloths soaked in apple cider can be applied to the blistered areas and are found to be effective in alleviating pain and burning.

Zinc powder mixed with aloe vera juice or vitamin E can be used topically to control pain. Vitamin E also prevents nerve damage and complications that may arise from shingles. Herbal oils, like peppermint, are also helpful in pain relief. Other unscented moisturizers or lotions also provide relief from itching.

Oral vitamin B12 supplements have been proven to reduce nerve related pain and are quite effective. Proteolytic enzymes are another effective treatment for shingles pain. Proteolytic enzymes, or protein digesting enzymes, occur naturally in the pancreas of animals (including humans) and also in many plants. Commonly used proteolytic enzymes are papain from papayas, bromelain from pineapples and trypsin or chymotrypsin from animal sources. These enzymes are available at pharmacies as tablets. These can prevent viral replication and therefore, reduce pain, inflammation and hasten healing.

How can patients make themselves heal faster and what are the preventive measures for this?

Some patients include more proteins, dairy and vegetables in their diet. Avoiding sugar is strongly advised so shingles will heal faster. Others opt for colloidal oatmeal baths to calm inflammation and help them relax. Vitamin supplements have been found to be beneficial and can aid in controlling shingles symptoms in many ways. However, once an individual contracts the disease, the infection will take at least three weeks to clear from the body and no treatment can eliminate it immediately. Pain medicines, itch relievers, natural remedies and other symptomatic treatments can only help make the period more bearable for the patient.

Wear cool and comfortable clothes so that the air supply to the blistered skin is not cut off, and keeping this area clean and dry not only allows you to become more comfortable but also prevents bacteria from infecting it.

Shingles vaccination, also known as Zostavax, might also be a solution. It has now been approved for individuals older than 60 years. While this vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing shingles, it reduces the chances of this disease’s occurrence by 50% and drastically decreases the intensity of its symptoms. Even some individuals who had Zostavax might still be struck by shingles, they will surely have less painful rashes and their blisters will also clear up quicker compared to those who didn’t get the vaccination.

Assuming that this post have satisfied your curiosity, you can now do your own shingles pain relief or have clues about what will the doctor advise or prescribe you. If you have complications or are allergic to other medicines, don’t hesitate to tell your doctor.

References:

Pain medication for shingles

Painkiller for shingles

Shingles is a viral skin infection that looks like a chicken pox except that it focuses only on an area of the body. Shingles can be very painful and one wants to make the pain go away as fast as possible.  While medicine can reduce inflammation and can shorten the healing process, it can also reduce the chances of having shingles complications such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) or disseminated zoster.

Then, what is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) or disseminated zoster?

Disseminated zoster or known as disseminated shingles is fatal and a more alarming condition of shingles. It can invade the blood stream or body organs, such as the lungs or brain. One needs to be admitted to the hospital with a visual examination including steroidal and antiviral drugs, to ease symptoms and prevent complications.

So to avoid this level of complication, antiviral medicines and pain killers are needed.

Would buying over-the-counter painkillers instead of going to a physician is enough?

For mild shingle rashes, people who have this can manage these rashes without pain medications but majority still needs medications to manage pain. Some are content with buying over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin. In their homes, percocet, vicodin, medications aiming the nerves such as gabapentin or tricyclic medications such as nortriptyline, desipramine, or amitriptyline could be used. But still, prescribed pain medications by a physician are still needed. Worse, if severe pain persists, the person must be admitted to the hospital and will have to be treated by intravenous pain medications.

Other medicines that would also treat the pain are Nerve block injections and Opioid painkiller known as Tramadol.

Warning: Tramadol should not be taken at the same time as tricycylic antidepressants, which are also used for long-lasting pain after shingles.

Commonly, shingles pain can be treated by medicines that can be used as well in treating epilepsy and depression. These medicines could change the nervous system to treat the pain. Advantages against disadvantages of taking painkillers must be weighted.

Be careful with placebos. A placebo is a dummy medicine that contains no active substances. Aside from feeling better from pain, healing process and condition must be observed. If side effects are dominant, just consult again to a physician and ask for medicine re-prescription.

How about combining medicines for pain relief?

If taking one medicine does not help, combining medicines may work together like combining gabapentin or neurontin with an opioid painkiller.

Combining medicines are common and physicians often prescribe these. One example is combining anti-inflammatory drugs plus opioid drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone or vicodin. Using this combination maximizes pain relief. If painkillers were combined with non-pain killers, sedation and drowsiness might occur. Doctors must be careful in prescribing and combining painkillers with anti-anxiety drugs, muscle relaxants, and other medications that also have sedating properties such as anticonvulsant drugs for it might result to an addictive effect.

While taking opioids, these are the side effects that may be found out: Dizziness, Constipation, Drowsiness and general illness feeling.

I don’t want to take pills or tablets. Is there a topical medicine to alleviate pain?

There are topical medicines that are specialized in immediate pain relief. The best topical medicines out there contain capsaicin or lidocaine.

It is best to get oral medicines together with topical medicines so you can manage the pain and at the same time be healed faster so you can fight the zoster virus and continue your normal activities.

Painkiller medicine comparison

 Everyone who has pain is considering taking painkillers. There are many painkillers for shingles but how would one know which one is the best.  Different painkillers work better if one knows the differences between those. In case of pain originated from the virus or nerves as shingles, here is the comparison made for the most popular painkillers.

Paracetamol

Paracetamol is used by patients to treat headaches and non-nerve pains. 2-4 tablets a day is a safe dosage for adults. This medicine can be taken within long periods since it generally doesn’t have side effects.

If pain is severe, don’t try to increase dosage that it might result to serious side effects. If the pain lasts for more than three days, have a consultation with your physician.

Aspirin

Aspirin is often used to relieve only minor aches and pains but it is dangerous to give this painkiller to children under 12 years of age.

Ibuprofen

This non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), Ibuprofen, works better when pain was caused by an inflammation of shingles.

Nortriptyline

This drug must not be taken if a person with shingles has heart attack or if being treated with methylene blue injection.

Percocet (Oxycodone and Acetaminophen)

Percocet is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Percocet should not be used if one have recently used alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers, or other narcotic medications.

Taking more than the recommended medication may lead to liver damage or death. If experiencing nausea, pain in upper stomach, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes), a doctor must be called immediately.

Amitriptyline and Gabapentin

Amitriptyline is a drug for depression while gabapentin is a drug for epilepsy. These medicines can also be used to treat pain caused by nervous system damage.  An affected person doesn’t need to be depressed or have epilepsy to take this drug. Side effects caused by these painkillers are drowsiness and dizziness.

Morphine

Morphine and morphine-like drugs such as oxycodone, fentanyl and buprenorphine are the strongest painkillers out there. Morphine may be packaged as a patch as well. This medicine must be only used for severe pain and nothing else. Because of its strength, careful monitoring of dosage and its effect will be made by a physician or pain specialist. Morphine is used for a long term solution to manage pain.

Does a pack of ice help in relieving shingles?

A pack of ice helps in relieving pain through placing it on the affected area. It eases the pain, itching and burning sensation.

The duration of putting an ice pack to the skin must be observed since prolonged use of ice pack can lead to local tissue damage.