Friday, January 15, 2010

Shingles and Chickenpox

What is Shingles?
Shingles also known as Herpes Zoster, is a condition commonly associated with people over 50 who have had the chickenpox virus at some time in their life. Shingles is not the same virus that causes cold sores or genital herpes. Studies show that 2 out of 10 people will experience shingles, which is usually brought on by stress and a low immune system. Many people only experience shingles one time, but for some it is a very painful reoccurring condition. In very few cases where the symptoms last longer than a month, nerve damage may occur.

Shingles is actually the same virus as chicken pox. After a person has chicken pox, the virus doesn't actually go away. It lays dormant in your nervous system and only shows up when the immune system can no longer keep it at bay. Shingles, or Herpes Zoster, attaches itself to a specific nerve in your nervous system and it follows those nerve fibers when it becomes active.

What are the Symptoms of Shingles?
A flare up of shingles can be very confusing for the person experiencing the symptoms for the first time. Typically the symptoms range from a burning or tingling sensation to an extreme sensitivity of the skin, and is typically on one side of the body. The pain can be internal or external. Occasionally a fever or headache may accompany this pain. In most cases a red rash with blisters appears a few days after the onset of pain. Shingles is contagious while these blisters are active and can be passed on to other people as chicken pox, if they have not been exposed in the past.

The location of shingles can be on any part of the body but most often occurs on the trunk or buttocks. Occasionally it will appear on the face or neck, these cases are monitored very closely so that they do not affect the eyes.

What Should I Expect if I Have Shingles?
Most cases of shingles will subside within a couple of weeks, however with weakened immune systems, such as seen with HIV or cancer, it may last longer or symptoms may be considerably worse. If you have a weakened immune system or suffer from autoimmune condition you should discuss this with your physician.

What Treatments are Available for Shingles?
In most cases the virus must run its course, and leaves no lasting effects on the patient. Cold compresses and pain relief is the most common treatment, but homeopathic medicine does offer a tincture to reduce the duration of the flare up and pain associated with the nerves. We also recommend that our patients take Monolauric Acid as a supplement to help combat the virus itself, and receive spinal adjustments to restore biomechanical and neurological integrity.

If you are one of the few who has reoccurring shingles symptoms our doctors would recommend reducing the stress level in your life and nutritional supplements to help your immune system fight off this virus naturally. Of course if you have active blisters from shingles try to avoid coming in contact with people who may not have had the virus.

Please feel free to call our office for more information.

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