A 55 year old man came to clinic
complaining of severe burning pain and itching on the right side
of his back near the shoulder. On exposing the part I could see
the typical blisters in patches indicating a Herpes zoster infection.
There were a few patches on the right side of his neck also. He
complained of great weakness, exhaustion, and terrible burning,
pricking pain, which was unbearable. This is a typical disease
picture of Herpes Zoster infection.
WHAT IS 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 persons 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.
WHAT 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 thats 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:-
can either physical or mental and is one of the leading causes
in lowering a persons immunity. People do not realize the havoc
stress can cause in their body.
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 its the immune system which is attacked in these
conditions. Cancer especially leukemia or lymphoma are responsible
for a debilitated immune system.
surprising as it sounds chemotherapy for cancer actually suppresses
the individuals immune system giving the dormant virus a chance
drugs and strong medication can have drastic side-effects on the
body therefore a judicious use is always advised.
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.
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
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
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 wont 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 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
Another complication, which might
occur in a few cases, is bacterial infection of the blisters. This
delays the healing process.
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 symptoms.
remedies are extremely effective against Post Herpetic Neuralgia.
This is because the correct homoeopathic remedy boosts the persons
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
"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.
Ranunculus Bulbosus 1M, five pills
every two hours till the pain subsides and the shingles start drying.
Later the dosage can be reduced to four times a day.
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.
Aconite 10M, five pills every two
hours will immediately control the disease from spreading any further.
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
Ignatia 1M, five pills every two
hours gives immediate relief.
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.
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
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