What is Shingles?
Oral herpes is usually caused by HSV-1. It is the cause of cold sores and fever blisters. “After primary infection, HSV-1 becomes latent, usually in the dorsal root ganglia of the trigeminal nerve. Rarely, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) may cause primary infection of the oral cavity, typically in association with orogenital sex, but recurrent oral HSV-2 disease is rare.” (3)
Shingles is an extremely painful skin rash. The rash is caused by a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus (VZV), which also causes chickenpox. The rash usually appears as a band of fluid filled blisters in a band, a strip, or a small area on one side of the face or body. Shingles is also called herpes zoster.
WebMD says that “Shingles is most common in older adults and people who have weak immune systems because of stress, injury, certain medicines, or other reasons. Most people who get Shingles will get better and will not get it again. But it is possible to get Shingles more than once.” (1)
How does someone get Shingles?
When the varicella zoster virus reactivates, it causes Shingles. The virus actually causes two different diseases, and each is associated with a different phase in the virus lifecycle. Once infected, an individual experiences the first disease phase, which is known as chickenpox. After a person’s immune system fights off the virus, and he or she recovers, the virus goes into a latent phase (sort of like sleeping), where it does not replicate or make proteins to the same degree as when active. In a latent state, it lives deep in an individual’s nerves.
In some people, the virus never reactivates, and it remains in a latent state for the rest of that person’s life. In others, however, the virus reactivates (wakes up) when the immune system is weakened due to stress, disease or aging. Some medications may also trigger a reactivation of the virus, causing the second disease phase, which is a Shingles rash. WebMD says that scientists are not sure why this happens, “But after the virus becomes active again, it can only cause Shingles, not chickenpox.” (1)
You won’t catch Shingles from someone else who has it. However, if you have never had chickenpox and you are exposed to someone with Shingles, there is a small chance that you will contract the virus and develop chickenpox.
What are Shingles symptoms?
Depending on the strength of your immune system, you may experience a relatively mild Shingles rash, or you may experience symptoms that require immediate medical attention. When a person develops Shingles, symptoms happen in stages. “At first you may have a headache or be sensitive to light. You may also feel like you have the flu but not have a fever. Later, you may feel itching, tingling, or pain in a certain area. That’s where a band, strip, or small area of rash may occur a few days later. The rash turns into clusters of blisters. The blisters fill with fluid and then crust over. It takes 2 to 4 weeks for the blisters to heal, and they may leave scars. Some people only get a mild rash. And some do not get a rash at all. It’s possible that you could also feel dizzy or weak. Or you could have long-term pain or a rash on your face, changes in your vision, changes in how well you can think, or a rash that spreads. If you have any of these problems from Shingles, call your doctor right away.” (1)
What is VZV?
Varicella zoster virus or varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is one of eight herpes viruses known to infect humans and vertebrates. VZV only affects humans, and commonly causes chickenpox in children, teens and young adults and herpes zoster (Shingles) in adults and rarely in children. VZV is known by many names, including chickenpox virus, varicella virus, zoster virus, and human herpesvirus type 3 (HHV-3).
Catching VZV is Easy. The VZV is easily spread. You can become infected through direct contact with fluid from Shingles blisters. (Or from Chickenpox blisters).
Anyone with a Shingles rash is infectious when the rash is in the blister phase. Before blisters appear, a person is not infectious. Once the blisters crust over and scab, they are no longer infectious. “Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox and the risk of a person with Shingles spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered.” (2)
How do you prevent Shingles from spreading?
There are several “best practices” recommended by the CDC. Some of these include: keeping the rash covered, avoiding touching or scratching the rash, washing your hands often to prevent the spread of varicella zoster virus. Additionally, until your rash has developed crusts, you should avoid contact with pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine; premature or low birth weight infants; and people with weakened immune systems.
Are there complications associated with Shingles?
Yes there are. The main complication is persistent pain. This pain is called post-herpetic neuralgia or PHN. “People with PHN have severe pain in the areas where they had the Shingles rash, even after the rash clears up. The pain from PHN may be severe and debilitating, but it usually resolves in a few weeks or months in most patients. Some people can have pain from PHN for many years. As people get older, they are more likely to develop PHN, and the pain is more likely to be severe.” (2)
There is a vaccine to help prevent Shingles. Zostavax (the Shingles vaccine) is, essentially, a larger-than-normal dose of Varivax, the chickenpox vaccine, as both Shingles (prevented by Zostavax) and chickenpox (prevented by Varivax…) are caused by the same virus, Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). (3) This vaccine was approved in 2006 by the FDA for use in people over the age of 60. Interestingly, “additional doses of the herpes zoster vaccine did not give improved immune responses in (the) elderly” (3).
There are also several antiviral medicines – acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir – are available to treat Shingles. These medicines will help shorten the length and severity of the illness. “But to be effective, they must be started as soon as possible after the rash appears. Thus, people who have or think they might have Shingles should call their healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss treatment options. Analgesics (pain medicine) may help relieve the pain caused by Shingles. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching.” (2)
Are there any natural remedies?
Many doctors may also prescribe a natural product that was shown to work in published clinical studies. (6) Two such products are Gene-Eden-VIR and Novirin. These products are unique since they target the latent herpes virus.
Gene-Eden-VIR and Novirin have the same five natural ingredients: 100 mg of quercetin, 150 mg of green tea extract, 50 mg of a cinnamon extract, 25 mg of a licorice extract, and 100 mcg of selenium. The difference between the two products is that Novirin has higher quality, more expensive ingredients.
The CBCD tested the safety and effectiveness of the Gene-Eden-VIR/Novirin formula in a post-marketing clinical study. According to the study: “… the clinical study showed that Gene-Eden-VIR is a safe and effective treatment against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV), and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Therefore, health care practitioners should recommend Gene-Eden-VIR as a safe and effective antiviral treatment against these viruses.” The study was published in the medical journal Pharmacology and Pharmacy, in a special edition called Advances in Antiviral Drugs.
Following publication of the study, many doctors started prescribing Gene-Eden-VIR to their patients. See, for instance, the following four prescriptions for Gene-Eden-VIR (some information was blacked out to protect the privacy of the people involved).
Click Novirin or Gene-Eden-VIR to read more information about these products.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the demand for natural remedies, and there is growing evidence that some of these products are safe and effective. Moreover, natural remedies are a viable option for those who wish to avoid the side effects associated with some medications, and are willing to wait the extra time it takes for these remedies to work.