Did you wake up in the morning seeing rashes on an area of your body? If yes, you must pay attention to it and finding out how to treat shingles must be done immediately because this skin disease might cause you pain and worse, blindness if left untreated. Luckily, you have stumbled on this site and now, you can just browse the pages to know all about this disease and how to prevent it from occurring.
What is Shingles?
The varicella-zoster virus belongs to the herpes family that causes chickenpox and shingles. Inevitably, when a person contracts the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), he or she will develop chickenpox. However, even after the body fights off the chickenpox infection, the VZV virus still remains in the nerve roots in an attenuated or dormant state. In some cases, usually in people over 50, this virus becomes active again and travels along the path of the nerve to the surface of the skin that will lead in its comeback, developing a disease known as shingles. Yes, it’s like having a payback time.
Shingles can be identified by the presence of rashes and blisters on the skin, accompanied by intense itching and pain. These blisters contain infectious fluid and an individual can transmit the infection from the time the first blister appears till the time all blisters have dried, formed crusts, flaked away and cleared.
What can the prescribed medicines do to my body?
There is no cure for this and doctors only prescribe medicines to treat its symptoms. Usually, the medications’ aims are the following:
- Decrease the pain
- Shorten the length of the shingles episode
- Lessen itching
- Help blisters heal quickly as possible
There are, however, antiviral treatments like Zovirax, Famvir and Valtrex, which can prevent the virus from multiplying and spreading to other parts of the body. These can slow down the progression of the disease and reduce its severity by allowing the body’s immune system to cope with it better. Antiviral treatments should be started within the first three days from the day the rashes first occurred.
Antihistamines, corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory medicines can help control itching and lessen skin inflammation.
What if traditional analgesics are not effective? What painkillers will I take?
To manage the pain, you should try traditional analgesics first. If these are found to be insufficient and you are still experiencing further pain, the physician can prescribe stronger painkillers like prescription narcotics (example, Vicodin) or “pain patches”.
“Pain patches” are anaesthetic patches that can be applied to the skin. These can release a local anaesthetic into the skin for a few hours to make the area numb and impervious to pain. Doctors may also tell you to use creams or ointments that contain benzocaine or other anaesthetizing medicines.
Since most of the pain associated with shingles is nerve-related, some physicians recommend the use of antidepressants and anticonvulsants for managing your pain. Both of these drug categories inhibit nerve activity and these medicines can drastically decrease pain in shingles patients. Antidepressants can also reduce stress, anxiety levels and can help patients relax. You might experience less itching as well.
How do I keep my skin moisturized and at the same time make my blisters dry?
Moisturizing creams, calamine and other unscented lotions can be applied to keep the skin hydrated and soothe the itch. Petroleum jelly or honey can also be used for this purpose. (If you are using honey, watch out for ants, they may find you very sweet and they will bite you for that). Scented moisturizers can further aggravate irritation and should be avoided.
Domeboro solution, which is basically aluminium acetate solution, or a paste of cornstarch can be applied to dry blisters faster. Pepper extract or capsaicin creams and tinctures are available at pharmacies and are widely used to control pain in shingles patients. Capsaicin exhausts and transmits chemicals that can make the nerves insensitive to pain for some time.
Heat treatment and ice pack application is also effective in temporarily reducing your pain. Keeping the affected skin immersed in cool water for some time can help you feel comfortable making yourself reduce the urge to scratch your skin. Ready-made oatmeal bath mixes are available at drugstores and these can be emptied into a bathtub to soak your affected skin. Breathe, relax, soothe and calm yourself.
What vitamins do I need most?
Some patients find vitamin supplements to be helpful in controlling shingles. Vitamin E, taken orally or applied directly onto the affected skin, is good for healing skin problems and protecting the nerves from damage. The B-complex group of vitamins is commonly used to strengthen the nervous system and to reduce nerve pain. Vitamins A and D fortify the body’s immunity and these can increase the production of killer T-cells and macrophages, which can counter infection. Vitamin C is good for skin regeneration and virus multiplication prevention.
Natural remedies like turmeric paste and garlic juice have antiseptic properties and could speed up healing. Eating a spoonful of flaxseed powder twice a day increases the natural immunity of the body and has been found to be helpful. Plant extracts, like Licorice, soothes the inflammation and can help calm the rashes. Lemon balm counters viruses of the herpes family in particular and has been found to be reasonably successful in aiding the healing of cold sores or rashes.
Can I get a vaccination?
Many children are given the chickenpox vaccine, but the protective effect of this vaccine wears off as they approach adulthood. A vaccine for shingles called “Zostavax” is now approved for use in adults over the age of sixty. Some people who have been vaccinated for chickenpox or shingles can still get the disease, but they just usually develop a comparatively milder or shorter outbreak. Zostavax is said to have a prevention rate of about 50%.
According to this post’s introduction, Shingles can cause blindness, but how dangerous can it be?
In some cases, it may spread to the whole head, causing permanent or partial facial paralysis, hearing problems, pain in ear (or ears) and damage to the taste buds. In others, shingles could damage the eye, causing loss of vision. It may even affect and inflame the brain tissue that may lead to serious consequences or even death.
The most common complication arising from shingles is a problem called postherpetic neuralgia. As its name signifies, it is a persistent nerve pain that continues and stays for a long time, even after the blisters or rashes have vanished. This problem is due to the lasting damage to the nerve fibers caused by shingles and the pain may still continue for up to several years. Many of the medicines that are used to control pain can still be continued in patients who have developed postherpetic neuralgia.
If you ever get Shingles, try to search information first and then consult with your physician. Everyone has different body conditions so if you are not satisfied with your physician’s advice or if you are experiencing severe side effects, get a second or up to the third opinion so you will really know how to treat shingles. Think positive and you will surely recover faster and become happier.