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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.

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.