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Shingles (herpes zoster)


Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus that affects the nerve endings in skin. Shingles commonly affects skin on the abdomen, and mucous membranes of the vagina and oral cavity. Varicella-zoster is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a bout of chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the neurons in the ganglia (near the spinal cord), until it is reactivated when the immune system is suppressed. On reactivation, spreads to nerve ends and causes them to send pain messages to the brain.

Contributing factors: stress, cancer, anti-cancer drugs, spinal cord injuries and medications that suppress the immune system (e.g. corticosteroids).

Symptoms: Preceding shingles – chills, fever and aches. After the virus breaks out it causes fluid filled red blisters to appear. These blisters are itchy, painful and sensitive. Other symptoms include numbness, fatigue, depression, tingling, shooting pains, swollen lymph nodes, fever and headache. The blisters eventually form scabs that drop off.

Who to consult: Dietician, GP, herbalist, homoeopath, immunologist, naturopath, pharmacist, psychologist.