Herpes Zoster

What is Herpes Zoster?

Zoster—or shingles, as you may better know it—is the second coming of the chicken pox virus, varicella. The varicella virus of the herpes family (see discussion of Herpes Simplex, page 370) probably infected you as a child, causing chicken pox—a body-wide outbreak of blistered bumps that scab over to make sores and finally heal in a week or two. As with its herpes simplex cousins, the varicella virus can enter through the broken skin of any one of the "pox" sores, make its way up the nerve coverings, and make a home in the brain or near the spinal cord.
Herpes Zoster Many years later, under the proper stimulation, the virus becomes active again, but this time, instead of causing pox all over the body, the virus makes it way back down the nerve covering to cause an outbreak of clustered blisters all along the path of the nerve. In zoster, significant pain (caused by the virus inflaming the nerve) occurs in a band around one-half of the chest, abdomen, or face, preceding the outbreak of tender blisters and red-

ness. The affected nerve becomes so inflamed, sometimes, that chronic neuralgia (nerve pain) lasting many months or even years can result.

The disease is also infectious. From the onset of the pain, live varicella viruses begin to "shed" from the affected skin, and consequently, you could pass the virus to a young child, to someone who had never had chicken pox as a child, or to someone who had a beleaguered immune system, such as a person on cancer chemotherapy, a person with AIDS, or a person on drugs to suppress the body's defenses after an organ transplant. If you pass the virus to any of these people, they would not develop shingles, but rather they would develop chicken pox. In an otherwise healthy child or adult, coming down with a case of chicken pox is a nuisance; in an immunocompromised person, it could prove fatal. For this reason, if you have a case of shingles, you should not visit in the hospital or with friends who fall into these categories. Even with a normal, healthy immune system, the attack rate for chicken pox is about 80%, meaning that 8 out of 10 people exposed to the virus will catch it..

But as for you, if you have zoster, what does nutrition offer to help relieve the sometimes severe pain during and after the outbreak? Let's take a look in Herpes Zoster diet.

What makes Herpes Zoster worse?

•  Except for nutrients that depress your immune function (see Immune System Health), 1 know of no substances that worsen zoster.

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