1 in 5 adults will suffer this distressing condition in their lifetime, but those over 50 years old are more likely to be affected.
It is caused by the herpes varicellazoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. If you have had chickenpox in the past, you are likely to be immune to shingles, but this may not be the case if your immune system has been weakened recently.
The chickenpox virus lies dormant at the top of the nerve, but stress, poor diet, or drugs may cause it to reactivate, travel down to the nerve ending in the skin, and cause a painful rash in the area served by that nerve.
Characteristically, a rash of red spots will appear after a period of increasing tenderness in the area of skin about to be affected. These spots develop into fluid-filled blisters (full of the chickenpox virus), which burst to become ulcers and then dry out into crusts. Until the rash dies down, the whole area affected is likely to be extremely painful, with even a gentle touch causing tremendous discomfort.
You may experience fever, headache and enlarged lymph glands, as well as the skin symptoms. As the pain can be so bad, you may even experience mild depression as a result of the infection.
If the infection is in the nerves around the eye, you may get an eye infection that is not only excessively painful but affects your vision, so consult your doctor immediately if you think you have an attack of shingles.
Keep any area affected by shingles immaculately clean, as secondary bacterial infection of the blisters can cause extra pain and make the infection last longer.
St John’s Wort Oil applied topically to the areas affected by the infection, soothes the nerve pain very effectively. It can be applied as often as necessary and there are no contraindications.
You can also take St John’s Wort drops internally. This has the double benefit of reducing nerve pain and attacking the virus. St John’s Wort is well known for being an antidepressant (which is additionally helpful if the condition has been getting you down!), but it also has an antiviral action that makes it extremely helpful in relieving shingles.
If you are taking any medication, consult a health professional first.If you are prone to shingles and wish to reduce the possibility of it recurring, it is important to keep your immune system in top shape.
Avoid nuts and chocolate, and choose foods containing lots of vitamin C.
If you feel you need some extra support, take a maintenance dose of Echinaforce® (15 drops, once or twice daily) for several months until you feel better.