Shingle is a viral disease characterized by a very painful skin rash which usually erupts in the form of cluster blisters on the body. It is also known as Herpes Zoster. The outbreak of shingles presents itself in the form of a cluster of fluid-filled blisters. The hallmark of shingles is that it affects only one side of the body particularly face or torso (torso refers to the trunk of the human body). The blisters are located as band or strip on one side of the chest and do not cross the midline. Other locations include one side of the forehead or eye. Many people develop only one episode of shingles in their life, but some people can have recurrent episodes depending upon their immunity. Homeopathic remedies for shingles helps boost the immunity, reduce the severity of the symptoms and also helps reduce the chances of recurrence of the disease.
What Causes Shingles?
The causative agent of Shingles is VZV (Varicella Zoster Virus). The reactivation of VZV causes shingles, and it is the same virus that causes Chickenpox (varicella). Only those who ever had Chickenpox can develop shingles later in their life. The first exposure to VZV that most commonly occurs in childhood or adolescent leads to chickenpox. After the chickenpox resolves in a person, the virus remains dormant in some nerve cells of the spine of our body. When the VZV is in an inactive state in our body, it shows no symptoms. In some people, the virus can get reactivated again due to some factors and travel along the nerve pathway. It then reaches the skin of the particular area supplied by that nerve and can cause shingles (painful blisters). The most important thing about VZV is that it never goes away from the human body but lies dormant within some nerve cells. Only when the virus is active, it produces symptoms in the human body.
Homeopathic Medicines for Shingles
Homeopathic treatment for shingles works in a gentle, yet effective manner to reduce the severity of the symptoms and also help clear up the infection rather than suppressing it. These medicines have no side effects and work very well for post-herpetic neuralgia.
There is no cure for shingles in the conventional system of Medicine; medications are aimed to reduce the duration of shingles episode and to minimize the intensity of pain. Some commonly used medicines include
Antivirals: These do not treat shingles but are meant to reduce the severity and duration of the disease. They are not effective for postherpetic neuralgia. Side effects of antiviral medicines include nausea, dizziness, pain in stomach, mild skin rashes, joint pains, and they can also cause a sore throat.
Analgesics: Pain medications are used to treat mild to moderate pains in shingles. When the pain is severe, excessive intake of painkillers can cause side effects and trigger anxiety in a person.
Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are indicated along with antivirals to reduce the pain and for postherpetic neuralgia. Prolonged usage of corticosteroids can cause immunosuppression.
1. Rhus Tox: For Shingles on the Right Side
Rhus tox is prepared from poison – ivy, a vine-like shrub. This shrub grows naturally all over North America. Rhus Toxicodendron belongs to the Anacardiaceae family. The leaves and stalks of this creeping shrub are collected at night. The oil found within the plant is said to be most potent at night. The curative effect of this shrub dates back to the 18th century when a French physician found that accidental exposure to poison ivy healed a patient with chronic skin lesions. Since then this plant is used to treat various skin disorders. Rhus tox is very useful in Herpes Zoster with intense itching in the affected skin area. There is burning and Neuralgic pains after herpes zoster, especially on the right side. Herpetic eruptions alternating with dysentery and pains in chest, itching with burning and smarting, feeling as if pierced with hot needles, increase in eruptions on rubbing, a feeling of burning pain on blistering skin rash and itching that gets better with the application of hot water are the main symptoms. It is also indicated for shingles alternating with asthma.
2. Ranunculus Bulbosus: For Bluish Vesicles and Intense Itching
Ranunculus bulbosus for shingles is derived from the plant bulbous buttercup or St Anthony’s Turnip. This is a perennially growing plant and belongs to the Buttercup family. Ranunculus bulbosus is prepared from the bulb of this plant. This plant is native of Western Europe and the northern Mediterranean coast. As an introduced weed it grows in eastern and western parts of North America.
It is the principle medicine for treating Herpes zoster. It is indicated for herpetic eruptions with itching where the eruptions are vesicular and pustular. It is highly recommended for shingles with blue blisters that are filled with serum. There is an intense burning and itching that gets worse with contact.
3. Mezereum: For Shingles with Blisters with Scabs
Mezereum is prepared from a plant called Daphne Mezereum (also known as Spurge olive). This plant belongs to the vegetable kingdom. The bark of the shrub is used to prepare Mezereum. This plant is native of hilly woods of nearly whole of Europe and Russian Asia.
It is indicated for Herpes Zoster with burning pains. Eruptions ooze out with a discharge of acrid, gluey moisture from thick crusts. Scab formation over herpetic blisters with pus beneath it, itching over affected skin rash that gets worse by warmth, a sensation of insects crawling are some symptoms. The eruptions are crusty with white scabs and can bleed when touched. The skin becomes cold in those places where there is intense itching.
Other Important Remedies
1. Croton Tiglinum: For Shingles on Face
Croton tiglinum is prepared from a plant known as purging cotton. It belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family. Croton tiglinum is also known as ‘Jamaal Gota’ in Hindi. This medicine is prepared using croton oilseeds. This shrub is found in Southeast Asia. It works well in cases of Herpes zoster where the eruptions have stinging and smarting pains, vesicles, and pustules run into one another and speedily develop a seropurulent exudation. There is the formation of large brown scabs with peeling of skin and falling off of the pustules. Blisters are present in clusters, confluent and oozing, especially on the face with itching that is followed by painful burning.
2. Dolichos: For Shingles on Armpit
Dolichos pruriens is prepared from a plant named cowhage, also known as the cow-itch plant. It is a bean-like plant that belongs to the Fabaceae family. Dolichos is prepared using hair scraped from the epidermis of the pod. This plant grows widely in the tropics, including Bahamas and India. It can also extend to southern Florida. It is indicated in those cases where herpetic eruptions are on the armpit, spreading in rings forward to the sternum and backward to the spine. Pains are burning and smarting over the affected area. This medicine is also indicated for shingles without eruptions, and there is intense itching which gets worse by scratching.
3. Dulcamara: For Shingles from Exposure to Cold
Dulcamara is prepared from the bittersweet plant, also known as the bitter nightshade. It belongs to family Solanaceae. It is made using freshly obtained green leaves and stems of the bittersweet plant. This is a perennially growing plant which is indigenous to Asia and Europe, and now it is widely found in North America. Dulcamara is a top grade remedy when Herpes Zoster occurs after being exposed to cold, especially in wet weather. Herpetic eruptions get worse at night and better by moving about and from external warmth. The eruptions are thick, crusty, moist and get worse before menses (in women). The crusts over blisters are thick and brownish –yellow which starts bleeding when scratched.
4. Natrum Mur: For Shingles on Flexures
Natrum Mur is a treatment for shingles that are worse on flexures (bent or curved part). Vesicles with watery contents burst and leave thin scurf (flakes on the skin). Blisters form on burning spots on the skin. Herpetic eruptions become crusty and dry in bends of the limbs and margins of the scalp.
Post Herpetic Neuralgia
Postherpetic neuralgia refers to the condition when there is a persistent and recurrent pain in the area of the body which was affected by Herpes Zoster. In some persons, the pain continues to be present for months or years even after the herpetic lesions have subsided. When pain persists for more than 90 days, it is termed as post-herpetic Neuralgia.
Homeopathy is very effective in treating postherpetic neuralgia. They can naturally help to reduce the intensity of pain without making the person dependent upon them. Following medicines are highly recommended for Postherpetic Neuralgia:
Mezereum: Natural Treatment for Postherpetic Neuralgia with Burning
Mezereum is a top grade remedy for neuralgic pains with violent itching and burning. The inter-costal neuralgia continuing after the disappearance of the eruptions can be effectively treated with Mezereum. It is also recommended for violent neuralgia of the face and teeth, that which towards spreads towards the ears at night. Neuralgic pains come and go quickly, leaving the part numb. Mezereum is used to treat neuralgia over the left eye, where the pain radiates and shoots downwards.
Kalmia: For Postherpetic Neuralgia with Pains
It is highly indicated remedy for neuralgic pains of the face or of those nerves that supply the part where there were herpetic eruptions. The neuralgic pains are violent, tearing and shooting type, and come and go suddenly. The pains are worse in the day, coming and going with the sun or else get worse at night by lying down
Ranunculus Bulbosus – For Neuralgia on Eye
Ranunculus Bulbosus is a treatment for postherpetic neuralgia on the supraorbital (above the eye orbit) or intercostal nerves (between the ribs) after herpes zoster with sharp neuralgic pains preceding it. Neuralgic pains are stitching, stabbing and shooting type, and the herpetic eruptions are bluish in color.
Zincum Mettalicum: For Postherpetic Neuralgia with Burning Pains
Zincum met is indicated for Herpes zoster when the blisters are dry, over the whole body or on the back and hands. Neuralgic pains are burning and jerking in nature, and the shingles get worse in the evening and from the slightest touch. It is also indicated for suppurating herpetic eruptions.
Contributing Factors that Lead to Shingles
Emotional or psychological stress makes a person more prone to develop Shingles since chronic or intense stress weakens our immune system.
Shingles most commonly occur after 50 years of age. The risk of having shingles increases with age. It is rarely seen in children, but older people are more prone to develop it due to compromised immunity.
Impaired Immune System
Shingles most commonly develop in people with a weak immune system. Certain diseases like HIV/AIDS, cancer, a long history of medicines intake, long-term use of steroids or immunosuppressive drugs, autoimmune disorders like (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases) makes a person more prone to develop Shingles.
Shingles – Signs and Symptoms
Early symptoms: The initial symptoms of Shingles before the rash develops include fever and feeling of weakness. There may be a feeling of pain, burning and tingling sensation over the affected area.
Skin Rash: Skin Rash in shingles appears as pink or red blotchy patches which appear in the form of a band over one side of the trunk(the most common site) along the nerve pathway. The person can also feel shooting type of pain in the area of the rash. At this stage, shingles are not contagious.
Blisters: Blisters are a cluster of fluid-filled eruptions that appear after the rash. They appear as a band over one side of the trunk, and can also develop over one side of forehead or eye. Blisters continue to grow for many days.
Are Shingles Contagious?
Active blisters are contagious. The infection (VZV ) can transmit to other people through direct contact with the infected person. However, the other person will first develop chickenpox, not Shingles if the person never had a VZV infection earlier.
On the other hand, if a person has had Chickenpox earlier and he gets exposed to the VZV infection, there is a likelihood of developing shingles.
Scab Formation: Over a period of seven to ten days blisters sometimes ooze a contagious liquid, start becoming cloudy and begin to flatten. Gradually scab starts forming over the flattened blisters. It can take approximately one to two weeks for complete crust formation over the blisters.
At this stage, there are fewer chances of transmission of the virus. The pain also starts subsiding, but in some people, pain continues for months or years.
The Shingles ‘Belt’: Shingles is also referred to as “ shingles girdle “ or “shingles band” as it looks like a belt or half belt when it appears around the waist or rib cage. Shingles are easily recognizable with this classic presentation.
Shingles On Face: Shingles on the face appear in different areas.
Zoster Opthalmicus: Shingles can commonly involve Trigeminal nerve of the face. The ophthalmic branch is most commonly involved, and when the virus gets reactivated in this nerve branch, it is referred to as zoster opthalmicus. In some cases, it can cause blindness. The skin of the forehead, the orbit of the eye and upper eyelids may also be involved.
Shingles Oticus: It refers to shingles which involve the ear. It develops when the virus travels from the facial nerve to the vestibulocochlear nerve. There are chances of hearing loss and vertigo in this condition.
Widespread Shingles: A shingles rash is referred to as a wide rash which occurs when more than twenty skin lesions supplied by separate spinal nerves are involved. It is more likely to occur in people with a weak immune system.
Infections can also occur in open blisters and can lead to permanent scarring of skin in some individuals.
Healing: In many people, the skin rash starts healing within two to four weeks. Some people are left with minor scars while in some complete healing without any scarring is observed.
Some people can also have continued pain for months or longer after healing has taken place at the site of the rash. This is referred to as postherpetic Neuralgia.
Difference between Shingles and Herpes
Herpes Zoster and herpes simplex are two different diseases caused by a virus. The only similarity is that the family of Herpes virus causes both these diseases.
Varicella-zoster virus causes shingles or herpes zoster through direct contact with the infected person. Herpes is caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV 1 and HSV 2). HSV 1 is transmitted through oral contact via saliva, surface in and around the mouth and can also be spread by oro-genital contact. HSV 2 is transmitted through sexual contact.
Blisters in Herpes are red and painful around the mouth, genitals, and thighs. Infected women can experience vaginal discharges as well.
In Shingles, blisters appear in clusters and are fluid-filled and usually occur on one side of trunk, eye, face like a band and never cross the midline.
In one condition called zosteriform herpes simplex, the rash looks similar to Shingles rash and is difficult to differentiate visually. The Tzanck smear is used to diagnose acute infection in herpes but cannot distinguish between VZV and HSV.
Post Herpetic Neuralgia: In some cases, even after the shingles blisters have resolved, the pain continues to be present. This condition is known as post-herpetic neuralgia. Postherpetic neuralgia is most commonly seen with shingles in the mouth which occurs when the mandibular division or the maxillary part of the trigeminal nerve is involved.
Neurological Issues: Shingles can cause facial paralysis, hearing problems and balance issues depending upon which nerves are involved in the infection.
Loss of Vision: When shingles involve the eyes, it can cause infection in the eyes and subsequent loss of vision in some cases.
Encephalitis: In sporadic cases, shingles may lead to inflammation of the brain resulting in encephalitis (acute inflammation in the brain).
Shingles: Pain Mangement
There is no cure for shingles in the conventional system of treatment, but there are some home remedies for shingles nerve pain that can help:
- A cool, wet compress can help relieve pain and itching in shingles rash. You need to soak a cloth in cold water, squeeze the water out of cloth and apply the cloth to the affected area. Repeat it several times. Do not use any ice packs to the rash as it can make the affected area more sensitive.
- Shower Baths: Cleaning of blisters on a daily basis with cooling bath or shower can reduce the risk of spreading the infection.
- Soothing Lotions and Creams: Lotions do not hasten the process of healing but can help reduce the itching to some extent. Choose the lotions containing natural ingredients, like calamine lotion.
- Dietary Changes: Healing of shingles is prolonged when you have a weak immune system. Try consuming diets that help boost the immune system. This includes a diet rich in vitamins, green leafy vegetables, and a protein-rich diet that includes eggs, chicken, and red meat. For a Vegan diet, tomato, beans, and spinach are the top foods.
Natural remedies and medications can help manage herpes zoster to a great extent, and also reduce the chances of recurrence.