Homeopathy Approach in HERPES ZOSTER (SHINGLES)
HERPES ZOSTER OR SHINGLES
Herpes zoster is a viral infection caused by the Varicella Zoster virus. This virus is the same one responsible for causing chicken pox infection. In fact a person suffering from herpes is most likely to have suffered from chicken pox at some point in his or her past. After the episode of chicken pox these virus remain dormant in the body and they reside in the nerve cells especially the root cells near the spinal cord.
The statistics tell us that 20% of those people who have suffered from chicken pox will get Herpes zoster in their lifetime. Thankfully this infection occurs only once in a person’s lifetime. It is very rare to suffer from herpes again. This infection is usually encountered in the middle age group of our population but that does not mean that a child cannot suffer from it too.
CAUSES THIS INFECTION
The Varicella zoster virus, which is lying dormant in the body, gets reactivated and causes the herpes zoster infection. Why or how does this virus suddenly awaken? The answer to this question is still not known for certain but there are many theories put forward by the medical faculty. According to most physicians when the immune system is weakened due to various reasons that’s the time when the virus gets reactivated, multiplies and triggers an infection.
The immune system can be compromised or weakened due to a number of causes. The most common ones are:-
Stress – it can either physical or mental and is one of the leading causes in lowering a person’s immunity. People do not realize the havoc stress can cause in their body.SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Immuno-compromised individuals – these are patients whose immune system is weakened due to some other infection or illness. Any severe disease can cause this. HIV and AIDS patients seem to suffer from this infection as it’s the immune system which is attacked in these conditions. Cancer especially leukemia or lymphoma are responsible for a debilitated immune system.
Chemotherapy – surprising as it sounds chemotherapy for cancer actually suppresses the individual’s immune system giving the dormant virus a chance to resurface.
Medication – certain drugs and strong medication can have drastic side-effects on the body therefore a judicious use is always advised.
Cortisone – an indiscriminate use of this drug can cause adverse effects. It has a potent action on the immune system and suppresses it. Therefore the pros should always outweigh the cons while using it otherwise it is doing more harm than good.
Transplant patients – a person who has received any organ, be it a kidney or liver, has to take certain drugs in order for the donor organ to be accepted by the body. But unfortunately these drugs suppress the immune system and hence it gives an opportunity for the heroes virus to strike.
This herpes virus travels along the course of the nerve towards the skin causing lesions along its path. Therefore Herpes eruptions are normally seen on any one side of the body only and they trace out the course of the nerve that is affected. The common areas of the body usually affected are Trunk, Buttocks, Face and Arms.
The early signs of Herpes are normally vague like mild weakness, slight fever, feeling of discomfort. After this prodromal period of 2 to 3 days the patient starts experiencing severe pain, burning sensations, some people get a sensation of tingling and numbness. The part becomes hypersensitive to touch and the patient won’t allow you to touch him. Itching is another troublesome symptom and it can be so severe as to keep the patient up all night. The eruptions may form blisters, which ooze and crust. Finally after a few days these scabs fall off and indicate that the person is now not infectious to others.
The first symptom is usually one-sided pain, tingling, or burning. The pain and burning may be severe and is usually present before any rash appears.
Red patches on the skin, followed by small blisters, form in most people.
- The blisters break, forming small sores that begin to dry and form crusts. The crusts fall off in 2 to 3 weeks. Scarring is rare.
- The rash usually involves a narrow area from the spine around to the front of the belly area or chest.
- The rash may involve the face, eyes, mouth, and ears.
Other symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Fever and chills
- General ill feeling
- Genital sores
- Joint pain
- Swollen glands (lymph nodes)
You may also have pain, muscle weakness, and a rash involving different parts of your face if shingles affects a nerve in your face. The symptoms may include:
- Difficulty moving some of the muscles in the face
- Drooping eyelid (ptosis)
- Hearing loss
- Loss of eye motion
- Taste problems
- Vision problems
The most common complication is POST HERPETIC NEURALGIA. This neuralgia causes excruciating pain and can continue to trouble the patient for months to years. This usually occurs in the elderly patient whose immune system is weaker than the rest.
Another complication, which might occur in a few cases, is bacterial infection of the blisters. This delays the healing process.
Complications may include:
- Another attack of shingles
- Bacterial skin infections
- Blindness (if shingles occurs in the eye)
- Infection, including encephalitis or sepsis (blood infection) in persons with a weakened immune system
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome if shingles affects the nerves in the face
Avoid touching the rash and blisters on persons with shingles or chickenpox if you have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.
A herpes zoster vaccine is available. It is different than the chickenpox vaccine. Older adults who receive the herpes zoster vaccine are less likely to have complications from shingles.
The United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that adults older than 60 receive the herpes zoster vaccine as part of routine medical care.
This viral infection normally runs its course and resolves spontaneously within a few weeks. So why do we need to treat it? Firstly we must give symptomatic relief to the patient especially from the pain, burning, itching. Also supportive treatment has to be given for the other symptoms like fever, weakness etc.. But the most important aim of the treatment is to ensure that the patient does not suffer from complications of Herpes Zoster infection especially Post Herpetic Neuralgia. Homoeopathic medicines are found to be very effective against the Shingles infection. There are a number of Homoeopathic medicines to treat herpes but each individual case is taken in detail and the remedy selected on basis of the individual’s symptoms.
Homoeopathic remedies are extremely effective against Post Herpetic Neuralgia. This is because the correct homoeopathic remedy boosts the person’s own immunity to fight against the disease. Here are a few valuable remedies used in the treatment of Herpes Zoster.
About this medicine Dr. Magaret Tyler says:
"In the course of years one has had many cases of Herpes Zoster to treat, and fails to remember a Ranunculus case where few doses of a high potency did not wipe the trouble out in a couple of days pain and all."
There is severe stitching pain which becomes worse on slightest movement. The patient wants to keep still and cannot bear any touch or pressure. Here the vesicles are bluish black, crowded together in oval shaped groups with intolerable burning and itching oozing a dark yellow discharge when opened. The patient cannot tolerate cold air as it aggravates the pain.
A sudden pain on one side of the chest wall is felt after exposure to "dry cold" with great restlessness and fever or sudden redness and pain in any one of the eyeballs. The lids get swollen and red, with the eyes watering profusely. The affected side of the head aches severely.
Sudden emotional shock can reactivate the dormant " chicken pox viruses" in the roots of our nerves. This shock could be of any kind. Here the symptoms are associated with hysterical outbursts.
Sudden fright or fear can even trigger an attack of Herpes. I had a patient once who happened to witness a gruesome accident. After this he kept on complaining of pain in the left side of his chest. First it was thought that the horror of the accident has shocked him and the pain was due to fear but within a few days the typical herpes rash was seen. Opium helped him overcome the disease and the shock.
Burning and stinging pain, much swelling.
Burning and stinging pain, much swelling.
Vesicles large, sometimes confluent.
Come out in cold weather.
Ulcerate with great burning, stinging pain.
Worse warmth: better cold applications.
Confluent herpetic eruptions with intense burning of the blisters.
Sleepless after midnight.
Nausea and prostration; weakness.
Worse from cold of any kind, better from warmth.
"Herpes having a red, unwholesome appearance."
With severe neuralgic pains.
Itching, after scratching, turns to burning.
Worse from touch: in bed.Vesicles form a brownish scabVariolinum
Burnett said Variolinum had wiped out the condition, pain and all-and one has seen this also
HERE ARE A FEW SELF CARE TIPS
These are a few pointers in order to give some relief and maintain good hygiene in a person suffering from Herpes.
Avoid using soaps and chemicals in the affected area. Use cool, wet compresses as this might help in reducing the pain.
Keep the skin clean and do not use the same towel or contaminated item twice. Wash the clothes separately from other members of the family.
Isolation of the affected individual should be done in order to prevent infecting others who are susceptible. This should be done atleast till all the scabs have fallen.
When the scabs fall off the skin may be cracked and dry. Here a little use of plain petroleum jelly may help.
Clinical cases By Dr Ajay Yadav
Dr Shirin wadia article on herpis