Prevent Postherpetic Neuralgia, A Long-Term Complication of Shingles

Shingles is an encore presentation of the chicken pox attack you had as a child. This very painful nerve condition is caused by the same varicella zoster virus that causes chicken pox. Although the virus remains dormant in most people, shingles can occur when the virus is reactivated in the nerve pathways.

Scientists don’t know exactly what “wakes up” the hibernating shingles virus, but they believe advancing age, a weakened immune system, some medications (such as cortisone-type drugs or immune-suppressing medications), emotional stress, or recovery from surgery can trigger it.

Nutrition Connection

Some doctors believe that good nutrition may help prevent postherpetic neuralgia, a long-term complication of shingles. Here’s what to do:

-Get plenty of E and C. Vitamin E, an antioxidant found in nuts, seeds, wheat germ, and vegetable oils, and the bioflavonoids found in melons, peppers, and other fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C may help prevent the inflammation associated with postherpetic neuralgia and supports your immune system.

-Load up on zinc. Zinc-rich foods like seafood, meat, poultry, milk, yogurt, beans, nuts, and whole grains also strengthen your immute system. Pain may also be eased with applications of an ointment that contains capsaicin.

Beyond the Diet

-Exercise to prevent stress. Stress can trigger shingles, and exercise can help reduce stress. Try walking briskly for half an hour a day, or take up swimming, biking, or yoga.

-Soothe your skin. To promote healing (and relaxation), add a few drops of rose, lavender, bergamot, or tea tree oil to your warm bath. Mix them in a carrier oil, such as vegetable oil first.

-Numb the pain. Calendula lotion or ointment applied to blisters several times a day eases pain. Or apply a paste made of two crushed aspirin tablets and 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of rubbing alcohol three times a day to soothe throbbing nerves.

-Add supplements. Taking vitamins regularly may keep your immune system strong and therefore less likely to succumb to shingles. And for relief from posttherpetic neuralgia, ask your doctor about vitamin B12 injections, which can strengthen the tissue that covers your nerves.
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