(We thought this topic worth considering enough to add this article with a little more information.)
Overview of Shingles
Once is more than enough for one of the most excruciating illnesses you’re likely to ever experience. Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a rash of painful, fluid-filled blisters. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. The herpes zoster virus is a nasty bug. It even suppresses the
immune system by infecting CD4 t cells and macrophages (as does the HIV virus).
Shingles is more common in older people (about half of the people over 80 will develop it) and people with weakened immune systems. If you’re infected with shingles, you can pass the virus to anyone who hasn’t had chickenpox, but that individual will develop chickenpox at that time, not shingles.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, you must first have had an outbreak of chickenpox in order to develop shingles – which is triggered by residual virus particles in the nervous system. Roughly 20 percent of people who have had chickenpox will eventually develop shingles, usually at a time of great stress. Obviously, if you have serious stress of any kind going on in your life, reducing your level of stress may help give you some relief from shingles.
Shingles usually affects only one side of the body – commonly appears in a band, called a dermatone, that wraps around one side of the chest, waist or neck. The first symptom you will feel is usually pain, accompanied by burning, numbness or tingling, then a red rash that develops into blisters. Fevers, headaches and fatigue are also common.
If you think you may have shingles, see your doctor right away. If shingles blisters aren’t properly treated, they can become infected (one reason for our Skin Defense). Two or three weeks after the blisters develop, they fill with pus, break open and start to crust over. A painful skin rash with blisters occurs when stress activates the dormant chickenpox virus.
Shingles can take four or five weeks to clear up, and some people experience lingering pain, called postherpetic neuralgia, at the site of the blisters long after they have healed. However, there are some things about this virus that you should know – especially if they want to avoid a second bout with it.
If you’ve ever had the herpes zoster virus, you may believe that at least you’ll never get this extremely painful condition again. At least it’s conventional wisdom that once you contract this virus, your immune system will protect you from another episode for the rest of your life. Well, a single episode is not always the case. You can get shingles multiple times. In fact, this is more common than you may think.
The varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox is not eradicated from the body when a person recovers from chickenpox. Instead, it lies dormant in the nervous system and can be reactivated if the immune system weakens.
Originally, recurrences appeared to be limited to people with suppressed immune systems. At least, that’s what doctors believed. Then researchers at Olmsted Medical Center discovered something different. When they examined the medical records of around 1,700 patients with a single past episode and healthy immune systems, they found that a number of these people had a second or third case of shingles.
That’s not all they found. Women were more likely than men to get shingles – and they were also more likely to have a recurrence! A second episode also was more common in people who experienced pain for more than a month after the initial onset.
Acyclovir, an antiviral drug, has been the usual treatment. Now there is also a shingles vaccine that is suggested for people over 60. An experimental vaccine can reduce both the incidence and the severity of shingles by more than 50%, doctors reported. This is a development that could spare hundreds of thousands of elderly Americans from an extremely painful disease. The effectiveness of the vaccine was determined in an unusually large clinical trial involving more than 38,500 people over the age of 60, the group most prone to shingles, a skin and nerve infection.
“I think the results are quite clinically significant,” said Dr. Michael N. Oxman, the leader of the study, which is being published in The New England Journal of Medicine. “There’s a major reduction in the overall burden of illness of shingles.” Merck, the developer of the vaccine, has already applied to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. It would be the first new vaccine primarily for older adults in 30 years, according to Merck officials.
However, it may not be safe for anyone with a suppressed immune system. In addition, like most vaccines, it could damage your immune system. The shingles vaccine is a much more potent version of the chickenpox vaccine given to children. The vaccine boosts the immune system to keep the virus from being reactivated. It is not expected to help treat people who already have shingles.
It is estimated that more than one million people develop shingles in the United States each year, with both the prevalence and severity of the disease rising as people age. About half the cases each year are in people over 60, so widespread use of the vaccine in that age group could prevent 250,000 cases a year, said Dr. Oxman.
Fortunately, there are also alternatives.
Role of Lysine
Our other articles about shingles and herpes talk about the effectiveness of our Monolaurin and Skin Defense.
In addition, we want you to know that there is solid evidence that the amino acid L-lysine (or just lysine) is also helpful in treating the virus.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lysine treats shingles by speeding recovery time, as well as reducing the chance of recurrence. They say you might take L-lysine supplements to help prevent herpes outbreaks, or reduce the frequency or severity of cold sores and genital herpes outbreaks. The University of Michigan Health System notes L-lysine may also help treat shingles.
Lysine helps prevents herpes from spreading because it competes with arginine. Arginine is another amino acid that helps the herpes virus replicate because it is required by the shingles virus to multiply. Taking l-lysine will interfere with the availability and/or usability of arginine by viruses.
This also indicates that lysine may help treat mouth and genital lesions caused by the herpes simplex virus. These are solid reasons to consider reducing the consumption of arginine, and supplement with L-lysine.
L-lysine is an essential amino acid that your body needs. Unfortunately, your body can’t make L-lysine. You must get it from your diet, from eating certain foods. You can get L-lysine from food sources such as beans and legumes, brewer’s yeast, fish and meat and dairy products. Animal proteins like meat, poultry and eggs contain the highest amounts of L-lysine so deficiencies are usually found only among strict vegans.
You can also get L-lysine from taking a supplement!
Cautions: Taking some lysine can be very helpful. However, it is good to be aware that taking too much L-lysine could increase your cholesterol levels or cause gallstones, warns the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The same goes if you have high cholesterol, gallstones or kidney or liver disease. Lysine can also increase the toxicity of certain antibiotics. This makes it sensible to consult your doctor before taking L-lysine supplements to discuss a safe dosage.
The typical recommended intake of L-lysine is 1 gram per day for prevention, and a therapeutic dosage during an outbreak is usually 1 gram taken three times a day, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Many places recommend higher doses but we would recommend asking your doctor before doing so. Keep in mind that our Monolaurin and Skin Defense are also helping. You can find l-lysine in any health food store or, since we order many things from Vitalabs, we usually recommend NSI’s L-lysine at VitaCost.
Obviously, the people who have tried our 3-Step Shingles Treatment have been much happier with the natural solution to their problem.
University of Pittsburg Medical School
University of Maryland Medical School
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