Shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia are well-treated using naturopathic medicine.
Shingles is a painful, blistering rash that can occur anywhere on your body, but most commonly appears as a band of painful blisters on your trunk. Post-herpetic neuralgia is pain that lingers after active shingles has resolved.
Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After the symptoms of a chickenpox infection resolve, virus can remains in your body, inactive, in the nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Later in life, possibly when your immune system is weakened, the virus can be reactivated resulting in shingles. Shingles will usually self-resolve a few weeks, but while active can be very painful.
Complications from shingles are the result of damage to nervous tissue or infections arising from broken skin of shingles blisters, and may include post-herpetic neuralgia (pain that remains after shingles resolves), vision or hearing problems, balance problems, encephalitis (brain inflammation), facial paralysis and skin infections.
Seek professional healthcare if you experience symptoms you suspect may be caused by shingles.
Symptoms of Shingles
Possible symptoms of shingles include:
- Rash that is preceded by a few days by pain in the skin
- Rash that affects only a small area of your skin
- Rash that itches, tingles or has burning pain
- Rash that develops into fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
- Fever and chills
- General aching
- Rarely, shingles develops with no rash
Treatment of Shingles at Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine
At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, the goals of shingles treatment are to reduce pain and shorten duration of infection and prevent or address potential post-shingles complications (e.g., post-herpetic neuralgia ).
Conventional treatment for shingles may include, and variety of medications, including antiviral medications, pain medications (e.g., oxycodone), tricyclic antidepressants, anticonvulsant medications and numbing agents. These medications may have short- or long-term side effects.
For this reason, you may choose to try natural treatment to possibly avoid use of conventional medications, or together with conventional medications in order to decrease dosages of conventional medications required to manage your shingles symptoms.
Naturopathic treatment of any chronic health concern must be recognized as a process that involves:
- Identifying specific treatment goals
- Development by your naturopathic doctor, of a thorough understanding of all factors affecting your health, including physical, psychological, emotional and lifestyle factors
- Development of a comprehensive treatment plan
- Implementation and maintenance of that plan through periodic monitoring and adjustment
At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, a typical approach to treating shingles may be to:
- Identify and address underlying factors in your lifestyle (e.g., poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, smoking) or general health (e.g., weakened immune system, prolonged use of steroid medications) that may be slowing resolution of your shingles infection
- Reduce pain, eliminate virus and increase immune system activity using botanical (herbal) medicines
- Support recovery by nourishing nerve tissue using nutritional supplements
- Soothe and heal skin using botanical (herbal) medicines
- Prevent recurrence by increasing immune system activity using botanical (herbal) medicines
Where appropriate, a number of therapeutic options are available, to be used alone, or more often in a complementary fashion, including:
- Nutritional counseling
- Nutritional supplements
- Metabolic detoxification protocols
- Botanical (herbal) medicines
- Bowen Therapy
- Exercise prescription
- Relaxation (meditation) training
- Lifestyle medicine and counseling
- Registered massage therapy
Treatments provided by naturopathic doctors and registered massage therapists are covered by most extended healthcare plans.
Shingles [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; [cited 2010 Jan 26]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/shingles/DS00098.