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Do I Have Shingles? Symptoms, Causes and Natural Remedies for Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus)

I love health and passionately believe we should do more to look after our health. Natural remedies can be as effective as conventional ones

Rash in a mild outbreak of shingles (Herpes zoster)

Shingles rash during an outbreak of the Herpes zoster virus

Shingles rash during an outbreak of the Herpes zoster virus

Facts About Shingles in Adults

There are millions of shingles cases around the world each year and the Center for Disease Control in the United States records at least 1 million cases per annum. Shingles is more common in the Western countries and the reason for this is unknown as the virus which causes shingles is found all around the globe. In the United Kingdom, three in every 1000 of the population develop shingles per year.

This article will give you an insight into shingles, and how to treat shingles with natural treatments, homeopathy, and home remedies.

  • What is shingles?
  • What causes shingles?
  • What are the symptoms of shingles?
  • Is shingles contagious?
  • Shingles risk factors
  • The most common shingles symptoms
  • Diagnosis of shingles
  • How to treat shingles naturally
  • Top 10 shingles home remedies
  • Best homeopathy treatments for shingles
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus
  • Can sunbeds cause shingles?

What is Shingles and What Causes Shingles?

Shingles is caused by the Herpes zoster virus. The Herpes zoster virus also causes Chickenpox (Varicella) which is a common childhood disease and is now often vaccinated against. The virus has an ability to lay dormant in nerve tissue for many years and an outbreak can all of a sudden be triggered.

The virus can easily start to replicate when the body is exposed to stress or prolonged illness. This is perhaps why we often see it in the more senior population, and those undergoing medical treatment.

Is Shingles Contagious?

Yes, shingles can be contagious. You can also develop shingles, or an outbreak of shingles can be triggered if you come in contact with someone who is suffering from chicken pox. The virus, or shingles, can spread if you come in contact with the fluid contained in the shingles blisters. Once all of the blisters are have developed a crust, you are not considered to be contagious anymore

Shingles Risk Factors

Who is most likely to get shingles?

Shingles can occur at any time, however, it is more common in elderly people between the ages of 50 - 80 years old. Attacks can easily become severe and it is important to see a doctor if you think that you are experiencing an outbreak of shingles.

People receiving specific medical treatment such as chemotherapy or take certain medications, often experience shingles as a result of treatments attacking their immune system destroying healthy cells as well as diseased cells.

The Most Common Shingles Symptoms

There is a range of early and late symptoms to look out for and many sufferers describe some symptoms which may initially seem strange. For instance, some sufferers seem to be able to describe the virus traveling through their nervous system creating a creeping feeling or like someone is sticking pins into them.

  • Tiredness - tiredness is an early signal from the body which indicates something is wrong, and many sufferers talk about extreme tiredness before they actually see any real physical symptoms.
  • Fever - a slightly raised temperature is sometimes reported.
  • Pain - shingles can cause severe pain and sometimes the pain can occur before the typical shingles rash occurs. If, you feel severe pain in a specific part of the trunk of your body or in your face after suffering stress or illness watch the area closely. The pain is often described as a "skin pain" or a burning sensation of the skin.
  • Red patches (skin lesions) - red patches develop in shingles and they eventually blister and can burst. The red patches appear over the affected nerve, and they itch, burn and cause pain as they develop. The Herpes zoster virus is thought to be the culprit behind a lot of explained nerve damage. The red patches of the typical shingles rash develop on the trunk of the body or on the face. The rash often follows the "route" of chickenpox outbreaks.
  • Swollen lymph nodes - swollen lymph nodes is another common symptom. This means your immune system has been called into action and is a sign your body is battling an infection.
  • Shaking and shivering - many sufferers feel cold and might even experience flu-like symptoms.
  • Sensitivity to touch - the skin may feel sensitive in a certain area even though the rash has not developed yet.
  • A funny feeling - the skin may feel itchy in the sun.
  • Bath or Shower irritation - Skin feels irritated when having a hot bath or shower.
  • Clothing - Certain types of clothing may cause an itching sensation.

Diagnosis of Shingles

Shingles is diagnosed by a physical examination and can only be diagnosed once the rash or blisters have developed. The skin lesions have a distinctive pattern and most doctors diagnose by recognizing the pattern and the look of the blisters. There are other methods which can be used such as a white blood cell count, and perhaps an antibody test for the virus. Other more advanced tests can be applied as well, however, are seldom used.

How to Treat Shingles Naturally

The best way forward is to treat the entire immune system, but at the same time focus on treating the pain, itchiness and unpleasant burning sensation which can develop during an outbreak of shingles.
The reason we should treat the immune system is to reduce the severity of the attack and also try to reduce the risk of any prolonged problems such as neuralgia or other pain syndromes which are all result of nerve damage.

Top 10 Shingles Home Remedies

1) Rest - shingles respond well to rest. You should not try to rush off to work or fill up your diary with lots of things you need to do.

2) St Johns Wort - helps to heal the nervous system. Do not use if you are currently on any treatments, or medications, for depression or other mental health issues. St Johns Wort interferes with our endocrine system and will upset treatments such as HRT and prohibit the function of the contraception of the contraceptive pill.

3) Chamomile tea - cleaning the affected area with cold chamomile tea is soothing and mildly antiseptic.

4) Chili skin cream - there is now a gentle cream based on chilies (capsicum) which is excellent, and you should consider this as the first line of defense for the rash or skin lesions. It is a top shingles home remedy and most pharmacies now carry the cream.

5) Vitamin B complex - vitamin B is responsible for the correct functions of the nervous system and a deficiency can result in an outbreak of shingles. Taking an extra strong vitamin B complex for a couple of months to strengthen your nervous and immune system can help to deal with any painful after-effects of the herpes zoster virus.

6) Flaxseed oil - using a supplement of flax seed oil is another good idea as the ALA essential fatty acid in flax supports the skin.

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7) Probiotics can help to raise your immune response and combat shingles.

8) Homeopathy - it depends on what stage your shingles blisters are at, However, homeopathy has shown great promise.

9) Cotton clothing - let the skin breathe and wear loose cotton clothing.

10) Diet - the right diet can help a lot.

Try to eat as healthy as you can adding lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet. A good diet helps your immune system fight back and beat any intruders. Two other alternative therapies which seem to help as well are yoga and acupuncture. Any activity which is restful and helps you to relax is just what the body needs when suffering shingles.

Best Homeopathy Treatments for Shingles

There are thousands of homeopathy treatments and many are suitable for treating skin conditions. However, there are four main homeopathy treatments which seem to work well.

Rhus Tox - when you are suffering from aching and a restless feeling, and may even feel like you have the flu. Scaly and itchy rash

Ranunculus - shingles combined with severe nerve pain. The rash may be less severe, but you are experiencing a lot of pain

Arsenicum - very painful and almost a burning shingles rash.

Apis - in case of swollen skin and blisters with a tendency to burn

Shingles around the area of the eye is serious

Shingles around the area of the eye is serious

Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus

Shingles around the eye can be serious and lead to complications.

This type of shingles normally begins with fever, tiredness and a droopy eyelid. Headaches and general pains in the head are very common and so is a decreased vision. Early treatment by a specialist is crucial as Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus can lead to inflammation of the eye and vision loss.

Shingles in the eye area can cause inflammation of the retina which makes the eye sensitive to light. It normally begins with blurry vision and requires immediate treatment to ensure that lasting damage is not caused to the eye and retina

Is there a link between shingles and sun beds?

Is there a link between shingles and sun beds?

Can Sunbeds Cause Shingles?

We know the sun can cause an attack of shingles. It is not clearly understood why but is thought a sunburn causes the skin to become stressed, and subsequently, the herpes zoster virus becomes active.

What about sunbeds? In fact, sunbeds can cause shingles in two ways. Once again, you are exposed to UV rays when you use a sunbed and you can get a sunburn from a sunbed as well. Secondly, if someone before you with open shingles blisters has used the sunbed, you can catch the infection from any fluid left behind.

© 2013 Annie Messeri


Annie Messeri (author) from Spain on February 15, 2013:

Hi Amy. I am putting together my own web site at the moment, (lots of work) and I will dedicate a section to problems with the immune system and auto immune diseases. They are on the increase and it would be interesting to know why but I suspect it has something to do with our food and our environment, Coq10 is good as it reduces inflammation in the body. A lot of people assume this is only beneficial for the heart but it is not that easy. It treats overall inflammation i.e. it can helped to treat problems in the arteries. Reduce inflammation = reduce disease. Thank you for your comments and take of your body.

Amy Becherer from St. Louis, MO on February 15, 2013:

I didn't know about vitamin B complex as beneficial for immune system deficiencies, Healthyannie. Thank you for telling me. My grandmother, who was ahead of her time, owned a health food store in Barstow, CA, where she relocated after my grandfather died of melanoma. She advised I take CoQ10 about 30-years ago when I was diagnosed. I did, religiously, for many years and my symptoms remained manageable without any prescription medications. I have resumed taking the supplement, but the immune system weakens further with the years. I will add a high quality B complex to my arsenal. The last episode occurred about a year and a half ago following an extensive dental appt on a tooth located on the upper left side. I will take the antiviral Rx as a deterrent, if I know that I am going to have a dental procedure on the upper left side of my face from now on. My first episode at 38 years old was by far the worst, as I didn't realize what I was dealing with and waited until I knew it was necessary that I see the doctor. Now, I recognize the early symptoms, which is instrumental in beginning the treatment early for sending the virus back to dormancy.

Again, thank you, Healthyannie and I look forward to your future articles.

Annie Messeri (author) from Spain on February 15, 2013:

Hi Amy - I am going to be dealing with various pain syndromes in another article soon and how you can better deal with long term pain after conditions such as Shingles. Interesting to hear that you suffered an outbreak of Shingles after a flu shot. The link between flu shots and shingles outbreaks are often dismissed by doctors. I think there is a link but I am not a medical doctor just a crazy woman with a Phd in Physiology. I also think there is a trigger between Shingles cases when one occurs more than often you will see a small outbreak. If you have a weakened immune system due to illness or the stresses and strains of modern medical treatments Shingles can become a lifelong problem, and is a good idea to take a good quality vitamin B complex.

Amy Becherer from St. Louis, MO on February 14, 2013:

Interesting informational article about a terrible illness, Healthyannie. I had my first encounter (the worst of three) before I was 40 due to my autoimmune disease. It started on my forehead and progressed to the top of my left eyelid. I saw my eye specialist who prescribed an antiviral and eyedrops. In each subsequent episode, once following a flu shot, I repeated the treatment plan, which made a huge difference in clearing the outbreak. The pain can be excruciating. Some patients, usually the elderly, can suffer post-herpetic pain for the rest of their lives. My mother knew a gentlemen who committed suicide due to years of extreme, unrelenting pain. Although physicians claim that shingles is not contagious (although someone with shingles can cause chickenpox in someone who hasn't been exposed before), I worked in an office where a co-worker came to work with shingles and within 2 weeks, two men in the office contracted shingles; one who was left deaf on the affected side as a result. Coincidence? I don't think so and neither did the rest of the office!

Thank you for your well-written piece on an illness that remains 'incurable' and, despite treatment, can recur in those with a weakened immune system. The best preventative appears to be in the chickenpox vaccine for those who have never had the common childhood disease, which will prevent shingles later in life. Thank you, Healthyannie.

Annie Messeri (author) from Spain on February 14, 2013:

Hi LadyLyell. It is painful isn't? Hope you did not end up with any permanent pain, or nerve damage.

Annie Messeri (author) from Spain on February 14, 2013:

Hi DDE. Shingles is not nice - it is really not nice. It is difficult illness to explain sometimes as a lot of doctors initially do not associate some of the early symptoms with Shingles.

LadyLyell from George, South Africa on February 14, 2013:

I suffered from Shingles a few months ago, oh the pain!

Thank you for the interesting article.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 14, 2013:

Very useful and interesting information here on shingles I once knew someone who had Shingles and she was just as you explained in this Hub Voted up!

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