Most of us get chickenpox as children, and a few of us are left with a tell-tale souvenir of the experience: a tiny scar on the face or neck where we scratched once too often. But some of us are left with another legacy of that usually harmless childhood infection: shingles.
Shingles is an excruciatingly painful rash which occurs in people who have had chickenpox. The virus that causes chickenpox, scientifically known as the varicella-zoster virus, is the same one that causes shingles (a form of the herpes virus). What happens is that after you’ve had the pox, it lies dormant in your body. Then, perhaps decades later, it re-emerges – in the form of a painful and desperately painful and unpleasant rash.
Sadly, shingles is a lot nastier than chickenpox for the vast majority of people who come down with it. The worst bit, although it is fairly uncommon, is that you can be left with postherpetic neuralgia.
Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox. If you remember the chickenpox, you’ll know that nothing good can come of it! After an attack, the virus does not exit your body, but actually retreats to nerve cells, where it may remain hidden for years. Later in life, stress and illness can sometimes trigger reproduction of the virus, at which time it travels along the nerve to the skin and erupts into the painful condition known as shingles. Anyone who has had it knows it well. It can start as a numbness or tingling and itching. Some describe it as feeling like needles pricking the skin. Soon, a classic and painful rash appears, similar to chickenpox. It blisters. Erupts. Forms scabs. And lasts for several weeks. If you’re generally a healthy individual, you’ll soon recover fully. Only 4% of people who experience shingles (of which 50% are over 60) have a recurrence.
For decades traditional treatment has consisted of hot compresses to soothe, aspirin to lessen the pain (please read our “Health News” article on page 4 for a possible “natural” pain reliever), and TIME to cure all. Today, it really is not much different. Some doctors believe that antiviral drugs can help shorten the duration of the outbreak if caught very early (within 48 hours). However, this is debated among professionals; it is also unlikely for an accurate diagnosis that early. Therefore, those who suffer from shingles often develop a short-lived feeling of helplessness; that is, unless you take a look at the Edgar Cayce readings.
The Cayce readings given to people suffering from shingles indicated that the root cause was generally poor eliminations. In situations where there is a toxicity as a result of a sluggish colon, the circulation (both capillary and lymph) is negatively affected as well as the liver and the kidneys. The skin, being the body’s largest organ and a major player in eliminations, is thus stressed and vulnerable to distress. As always, Cayce gave a host of contributing factors – poor diet, general debilitation, and spinal lesions. In one case, he actually suggested that a case of respiratory flu was causing a congestion in the colon.
Many people ask are shingles contagious? The answer is really 50/50, a person who has shingles can pass chicken pox on to those who have never had it. Shingles does not pass on shingles.
As with chicken pox the shingles spots are contagious when they are still moist, so if they are blister like it is advised to avoid contact with other people. If the spots are dry and scabby your shingles are no longer contagious and this means that you can go back to a more social way of life.
Most children suffer from chicken pox at an early age so by the time they reach adulthood they are already immune. This type of virus can only be passed through direct physical contact with the moist blisters. This is good news for most people as if they cover up the moist blisters they are still able to work, do the shopping, and pick up children from school.
Any woman who has not already had chicken pox should avoid people with either chicken pox or shingles, especially if you are pregnant. As should people who have a low immune tolerance. If you have or know someone with shingles you can take precautionary measures, such as;
Do not share any kind of wash cloth or towel,
Avoid swimming especially in a public pool,
Avoid sports where physical contact is necessary, including sexual contact.
As I stated above it is virtually impossible to catch shingles from some one else. Shingles is usually caused through the reaction of a previous virus, such as chicken pox.
If you have a child particularly a baby, avoiding them if you have shingles or chicken pox is not possible. Often as you are the primary care giver. However if the child is in fact yours they may well be protected from catching the virus due to sharing your antibodies whilst your were pregnant.