Shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia

 

What You Need to Know About Shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia

 

You wake up one morning to a red painful rash…

A band of blisters wrapped around your body from the middle of your back around your side to your breastbone.  As if that weren’t bad enough, you may also have

–            Pain, burning, numbness or tingling

–            Fluid-filled blisters

–            Itching

–            Headache

–            Fatigue

–            Body aches

–            Fever and chills

If not for the rash, you might think you were coming down with the flu.  Instead, your first thought is that you’re having an allergic reaction to food, or a new bath soap or even the perfume in your laundry detergent…

But if you are

–            Over 50 years of age

–            Had chicken pox at some point in your life

–            Have an autoimmune disease

–            Have any other health issue or significant stress that weakens your immune system

You probably have a virus called Varicella zoster virus (VZV), more commonly known as shingles. VZV is the same virus that causes chicken pox.  Once you’ve had chicken pox, the virus lies dormant in your system until it’s reactivated by various risk factors and you develop shingles.

And that’s a good news/bad news diagnosis.

Contrary to several old wives’ tales, shingles is usually by itself not life-threatening…that’s the good news.

The bad news is that shingles is extremely painful and you may experience severe and unrelenting nerve pain (Postherpetic Neuralgia) unless you get immediate medical care.

If you think you have shingles or that you might be at risk of developing them, here’s what you need to know about shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia:

Is Shingles Contagious?

Yes, like chicken pox, shingles is contagious.  You can pass the shingles virus to anyone who hasn’t had chicken pox.  And how’s this for a twist?  The person you pass the virus can develop chicken pox, not usually shingles.

Fortunately, the shingles virus is not an airborne virus.  It’s passed through direct contact with the open sores caused by shingles.  Until your blisters are healed, you are contagious.  Avoid contact with

–            Newborns

–            Pregnant women

–            Anyone with a weakened immune system

How Is Shingles Treated?

Shingles is usually by itself not life-threatening.

However, getting anti-viral medication and supportive care such as laser therapy as soon as your shingles appear (within 72 hours) is the wise (and much less painful) course of action to speed up the healing process and lessen the likelihood of potentially serious complications.

Once a doctor confirms that you have shingles, usually through taking a complete history and physical and sometime cultures from your rash, the standard course of treatment is anti-viral medication to kill the virus and make you more comfortable.

To help the medication work, you need to get plenty of rest, avoid stress and either take a cool bath or use cold wet compresses to ease the itch and pain.

What Are Some of the Complications from Shingles?

While shingles is not a serious illness, some of the complications arising from shingles can be.

Postherpetic Neuropathy

Your blisters go away but the pain remains. Postherpetic Neuropathy is caused by damaged nerve fibers sending exaggerated pain messages to your brain.  Pain medication, antidepressants or even anticonvulsant medications are often prescribed to bring relief from Postherpetic Neuropathy; however, repairing the damaged nerves is more desirable for long term relief.  Contact us to ask about their unique treatment protocol for treating Postherpetic Neuropathy and repairing the damaged nerves.

Loss of Vision

If your shingles erupt around or in your eyes, you can develop serious eye infections that could damage your eyes and result in loss of vision. If you have shingles anywhere on your face, get immediate treatment.

Neurological Problems

Depending upon where your shingles erupt and which nerves they affect, you can develop

–            Hearing or balance problems

–            Facial paralysis

–            Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)

Skin Infections

If your shingles blisters are not properly treated, you can develop skin infections cause by bacteria.  If the skin around your shingles becomes reddened, warm, firm, or possibly has red streaks spreading out from the affected area, contact your doctor.  You will need antibiotics to stop the infection.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

This complication is rare but it does happen.  If cranial nerves are affected by shingles you can develop Ramsay Hunt Syndrome resulting in facial nerve weakness and deafness.  If you have shingles around or inside your ear, seek medical treatment immediately.

How Can I Protect Myself From Shingles?

The best way to protect yourself from shingles is to stay healthy, control stress and exercise on a regular basis.

The shingles vaccine is often recommended for people who are 60 years of age or older and have actually had chicken pox.  Again, this vaccine won’t guarantee that you won’t develop shingles but it could lessen the severity of symptoms. It might reduce your chances of developing Postherpetic Neuralgia.

 

And by all means, if you know someone has shingles, exercise precautions!

We hope this information helps you deal with this very uncomfortable illness and the possible lasting effects of Postherpetic Neuropathy.  Having a bit more background information on your illness will help you participate in your care and give you a better chance of a positive outcome.

Don’t just live in pain. Call us today for information on treating shingles and postherpetic neuropathy with our laser and related therapy.

 


 

Tips On Better Managing Neuropathy During The Holidays

If you have diabetes…

Or you’ve had shingles…

Even if you’ve completed a successful course of chemotherapy…

And you suffer from pain or burning in your feet, legs or hands, you could have peripheral neuropathy.

You’re not alone…

You don’t have to just live with it…

You don’t necessarily have to swallow more pills and pay for more expensive prescriptions…

There are things you can do to help manage your pain.

The NeuropathyDR Protocol is Based Upon Combination Therapies

More than half the people suffering from neuropathy report that they’ve tried some complementary treatments in addition to traditional medicine to relieve their pain.

There are many things you can do daily at home to help you improve your pain.  Here are few to think about:

If You Have Diabetic Neuropathy, Control Your Blood Sugar

This may sound like a no-brainer but many people with diabetes don’t realize how toxic high blood sugar is.  High blood sugar is what causes nerve pain and damage.  Keeping blood sugar levels close to normal can not only stop ongoing damage; some damage may even be reversible.  That provides even more promise for fighting neuropathy pain.

Take Care of Your Feet

Nerve pain is usually what brings people in to see their doctors.  But the numbness in their feet and inability to feel even the smallest injury can lead to infections and ulceration and ultimately end in amputation.   If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy you need to take special care of your feet and be very aware of any sign of problems.  Some things you can do are:

•        Clean and inspect your feet every day.  If you have an injury that’s not healing properly, call your doctor immediately.

•       Wear comfortable shoes.  Don’t wear shoes that pinch your toes or rub blisters on your heels.

•       Wear padded socks to cushion the ball of your feet and the heel.

•       Either cut your toenails straight across or have a doctor do it for you.

Walk, or Better Yet Cycle As Much As Possible

You don’t have to run a marathon or even walk one.  You don’t have to race a titanium frame bicycle. Just move the big muscles in your legs as often and as much as you possibly can.  Exercise, even very gently at first improves circulation and improved blood flow to the legs and feet will help nourish damaged nerves.

A Warm Bath Can Do Wonders

Warm baths increase blood flow; reduce stress and aid in relaxation.  All three of these benefits will make the pain a little easier to tolerate.  But a word to the wise, check the water temperature with your elbow or your wrist before you get in the bathtub. The nerve damage in your feet makes them an unreliable source for judging temperature. Use a thermometer. We like 100 degrees Fahrenheit with some added minerals and antioxidants.

Take Targeted Supplements

Vitamins B-1, B-12, B-6 and folic acid are all vital to healthy nerves. We have found certain combinations in professionally tailored packages for each case often works best.  If you eat a healthy diet, you may still not be getting the recommended daily amount of some vitamins and other nutrients. Talk to your doctor first, though, before you take any supplements to make sure they won’t interact badly with the medications you’re taking.
You can easily check for drug-nutrient interactions. Special caution is advised in thyroid disease and cancer therapies during neuropathy care.

Better Self Care Means Better Quality of life...

Control Your Alcohol Intake

High intake of alcohol is a toxin to your nerves.  And if the nerves are already damaged, it’s even worse.  Some people think that a drink a day is good for your health. I respectfully disagree. If you have nerve damage, that’s a chance you don’t need to take.  Don’t drink more than four alcoholic beverages a week if you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, and none would be even better

That’s Why NeuropathyDR™ Doctors and Physical Therapists are trained

Before you begin any self-care regimen or add supplements, herbs or vitamins to your healthcare regimen, always talk to your professional first.  Virtually everything has some side effects so make sure that what you’re planning to take won’t cause you more harm than good.

And Above All Else…

Don’t give up.  Self-care is vital to managing your neuropathy.  While you may need a combination of these self-care tips and medication, sorting out yourself is not always wise.

Contact a local NeuropathyDR doctor or physical therapist to explore treatment options in addition to taking care of yourself.