Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a skin disease marked by acute rashes and inflammation. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is also responsible for chickenpox. The virus remains in the body after a person contracts chickenpox as a child and manifests in adulthood as shingles. Early symptoms include headaches, fever, flu-like symptoms, and light sensitivity. These are followed by chronic paresthesia, with varying levels of pain along the body. The rashes develop usually on only one side of the body. It usually starts as itchy hives that eventually become painful blisters that bleed and may result in scarring. Shingles is not usually fatal, but it can lead to very serious complications, such as nerve paralysis and blindness. It can also cause severe reactions on specific areas of the body targeted by the virus. Fortunately, there are several practical and fast ways to effectively treat shingles.
Over-the-counter prescription pain medications, both in capsule and ointment form, are a quick way to treat the pain of shingles rashes. Mild pain can be treated with topical analgesics, like calamine lotion and capsaicin cream. Topical antibiotics protect the rashes from infection and prevent them from spreading to the rest of the body. Ibuprofen and aspirin also help patients manage the pain.
Antiviral medication, such as famciclovir, and valacyclovir all help to relieve the pain and reduce the duration of the rashes. Acyclovir is the most prescribed antiviral treatment for shingles patients. These medications can treat onset symptoms and prevent them from worsening. A few analgesics and antiviral drugs can also help treat the pain from the nerve damage caused by the shingles virus, known as postherpetic neuralgia.
Steroids, namely corticosteroids, are very strong treatments against inflammation. They help deal with acute pain and prevent it from spreading. Prednisone is an oral corticosteroid that helps deal with the irritation and can reduce pain after the first two weeks of shingles. Experts recommend taking steroids with acyclovir or nucleoside analogues that prevent the virus from reproducing. Steroid injections into an area near the spinal cord can help patients deal with severe pain associated with nerve damage. They have also been known to treat post-herpetic neuralgia.
Taking care of the skin
Since shingles is primarily a skin condition, it is important to take good care of the skin in order to treat the symptoms. Proper skin care is important in improving skin condition with the disease. Keeping the skin cool is also an easy way to counter shingles. Taking cool baths or soaking the skin with a cold washcloth or cold compress will help relieve the inflammation and soothe skin rashes. Inflammation makes the skin very sensitive, thus it is recommended to use only mildly cold water as extreme temperatures can cause a lot of pain. Regular cool baths also combat skin infection. A colloidal oatmeal or starch bath is also helpful to moisturize the skin and relieve itching. Patients must also try not to scratch any irritated patches of skin to prevent symptoms from worsening.
High lysine and low arginine diet
Shingles patient’s diet should be carefully monitored. The shingles virus is affected by levels of lysine and arginine in the bloodstream. High levels of arginine tend to allow the virus to grow and reproduce, while lysine counters this and helps eliminate shingles symptoms. Lysine and arginine are amino acids that can be consumed in large amounts from food. Foods rich in lysine include any kinds of meat, fish, yogurt, cheese, eggs, milk, apples, and green beans. These foods are highly encouraged during rash outbreaks. Foods rich in arginine that must be avoided are chocolate, nuts, tomatoes, blueberries, brussels sprouts, cashews, and sugars. In addition, patients with high skin sensitivity are also advised against eating anything that may possibly trigger further irritation, such as seafood.
The varicella zoster virus lies dormant in the veins of the spinal cord after causing chicken pox. Shingles emerge from a spinal infection and often leads to chronic back pain. This is a common shingles symptom and adds to the pain patients already have to deal with from the skin inflammation. It is also common in the spine to become misaligned during outbreaks and this can even contribute to increasing their duration. Shingles patients are advised to regularly visit a chiropractor to help with the back pain and re-align the spine to counter the effects of the virus.
There are many homemade remedies that can help cure shingles symptoms. They are quick and easy to make and often produce results within a few weeks or even days of regular use. Mixing baking soda with water forms a paste that acts as an ointment to soothe shingles rashes. Cayenne pepper is also reported to help treat skin symptoms. Some remedies call for mixtures of crushed cayenne pepper as another makeshift paste, while others involve sprinkling the pepper onto the affected skin areas themselves and covering them with a soaked warm cloth. The combined action of the pepper and the warm cloth reduces pain and can lead to a faster recovery.
One of the most common homemade remedies is apple cider vinegar. Sprinkling ACV directly onto blisters or sores can lead to a considerable improvement in the skin condition after only 24 hours. Many patients look to apple cider vinegar as the best and fastest natural remedy for curing shingles.