Shingles & Post-Hepatic Neuralgia

Shingles and post-hepatic neuralgia are conditions involving the nerves presumed to be caused by immune or viral disease. Shingles is the common name for Herpes Zoster, which is caused by the Varicella-Zoster virus, the same virus that causes Chickenpox. It may occur at any age but is most common after age 50.

Signs and symptoms of Shingles can include chills and fever, malaise (a vague feeling of discomfort), and gastro-intestinal (GI) disturbances several days before distinctive features of the disease develop, with or without pain along the site of future eruptions. On about the 4th or 5th day, characteristic crops of vesicles (small sacs containing fluid) will appear, following the distribution of one or more of the nerve roots involved. The eruptions are usually hypersensitive and the pain may be severe. The eruptions are usually only on one side of the body. They begin to dry and scab about the 5th or 6th day and run their course in about 2 weeks. If the spread continues, or the lesions persist beyond 2 weeks, immune defects become suspect. Shingles itself is not contagious, but it can spread the chickenpox virus, especially to children or adults in the state where the blisters are forming and full of fluid. Once they are dried up, it is no longer contagious.

One attack of Herpes Zoster usually confers immunity. However, I have seen reoccurrences in some elderly patients, usually in the ones with weak immune systems. Most patients recover without complications, except for scarring of the skin. However, post-hepatic neuralgia may persist for months or years, most frequently in the elderly. Having pain continue after the lesions disappear can be a very painful and agonizing experience, especially if it continues for months on end with little to no relief.

Medical treatment is usually corticosteroids and prednisone taken orally for pain management. All precautions associated with prescribing corticosterooids should be observed, especially for side effects. Side effects of corticosterids include an increase in the risk of high blood pressue and bone disease in older persons. Corticosteroids also may lower a person's resistance to infections and make infections harder to treat. Other common side effects include changes in blood sugar levels, changes in appetitie, nervousness, restlessness, sleep problems and indigestion. Intramuscular B12 injections can help accelerate the healing of acute Herpes Zoster.

Alternative treatments include K-Laser treatments that are painless and only take 3-5 minutes each treatment. Multiple treatments are needed, usually tri-weekly for 2-3 weeks. Herbal tinctures used topically can give amazing relief. Other alternative treatments include microcurrent (especially frequency specific microcurrent), acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal botanicals. Good results have been obtained using these alternative treatments, especially in stubborn and painful cases that haven't responded to prescription medications. Frequency specific microcurrent (FSM) uses a pair of frequences (both used at the same time) that takes away from Shingles pain. When it is used before or immediately after the blisters break out, the treatment is for an hour a day for three days in a row or one two hour treatment. These treatments can diminish the pain in as little as 20 minutes and the blisters will either not break out or will be minimized. I have had patients that have come in the day the Shingles broke out in blister and the FSM treatments stopped the remaining spots from forming blisters. When FSM is used after the blisters break out it can reduce the intensity of the pain, and in some cases take the pain away. Relief can last for hours to days with each treatment. FSM almost always shortens the course of the Shingles and provides great benefits against Post-Hepatic Neuralgia.

-Richard H. Vail, DC, ND