Recently my practice has seen a large influx of shingles outbreaks. Shingles is a viral infection (varicella-zoster) that lays dormant in nerve tissue after someone has been exposed to chicken pox. It can be extremely painful for some, itchy for others, and even numb for others. It involves an outbreak of a rash that has fluid filled vesicles that eventually break and crust over. A shingles outbreak can technically occur anywhere, however, most often it is unilateral, meaning on one side of the body, and most commonly on the torso. For most people it will last anywhere from one to six weeks in length. Patients occasionally will also experience systemic symptoms such as fever, chills, headaches, light sensitivity, and fatigue.
Risk factors for an outbreak include (but are not limited to):
trauma to the skin
chronic disease such as HIV, cancer, autoimmune conditions
being over the age of 50
One of the most common questions asked about shingles is if it is contagious. To have an outbreak one must have a history of chickenpox. If someone is having a shingles outbreak and you have not had chicken pox and you are exposed, the result will be a chicken pox outbreak as opposed to a shingles outbreak. While it may not technically be contagious to those who have a history of chicken pox, I always suggest still taking caution when around a shingles outbreak, especially when there are open sores present. This is mainly more for the safety of the person having the outbreak, to help prevent complications such as infections.
It is extremely important to have a proper assessment if you think you are having a shingles outbreak. There are many complications that can occur with an untreated outbreak. For example permanent neurological damage, post herpetic pain, infections, and even loss of vision. Conventional medical treatment options are generally around utilizing pain killers, anti-viral medications, as well as preventing outbreak with a varicella vaccination.
I tend to utilize three key therapies that give great relief for many patients experiencing an outbreak. These include neural therapy, IV vitamin infusions, and high dose amino acid therapy. Neural therapy involves the injection of a solution that contains high doses of methylcobalamin (B12), thiamine (B1), and procaine to help with not only killing the virus but supporting the nerve tissue as well. This combination will provide both an antipuritic (anti-itching) as well as analgesic (pain relief) effect. Amino acid therapy includes either oral or IV l-lysine, a potent antiviral substance that inhibits the replication of the herpes virus. While some patients tell me they have tried l-lysine in the past without success, I tend to find the dosing previously tried is not of therapeutic levels. It is important to note that I will still also utilize anti-viral medications for many as well to help provide even greater comfort and faster recovery. Lastly, ensuring that risk factors for future outbreaks are addressed through a naturopathic approach is also an important aspect of my treatment plan for patients. A good treatment plan is one that is effective, efficient, and helps prevent future outbreaks.
Should you have any questions or are experiencing a shingles outbreak please call the office (778.484.4359) or click here to book. As always, this post is not designed to diagnose or treat you, but instead to give you something to think about. Please book a consult with a naturopathic physician prior to changing, starting, or stopping medications or protocols.
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Xu, Gang MD; Lv, Zhong-Wei PhD; Xu, Gang (Xiao) BSc; Tang, Wei-Zhen BSc. (2014). Thiamine, Cobalamin, Locally Injected Alone or Combination for Herpetic Itching: A Single-Center Randomized Controlled Trial. The clinical Journal of Pain. 30 (3):269-278. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e3182a0e085