Saturday, December 03, 2011
It is that time of year when stress can get the best of us! For some, this may mean an annual cold or just feeling under the weather in some way which passes after a short time with a little rest and "TLC". For others, there is an underlying virus called Herpes Zoster which is also called varicella-zoster virus (VZV) or "Shingles" that may resurface causing a significant amount of pain or discomfort. This type of Herpes develops in individuals that have contracted Chicken Pox at some point or have been vaccinated for it. As is commonly seen with other Herpes viruses (Types I and II) VZV presents on the skin as a painful lesion (sore) or group of lesions. Also like Herpes Types I and II, VZV is fairly common affecting approximately 2-5 out of every 1000 US patients which is roughly 1 million US cases annually. VZV lesions generally appear on areas referred to as dermatomes which are areas served by a single spinal nerve. For example, there is a dermatome that extends along one rib to the front of the chest which is a common area affected by VZV. VZV eruptions can also appear on other dermatomal areas of the face, neck, arm, and hand. Again like other Herpes viruses, symptoms of VZV may erupt more frequently or intensely in some individuals due to a number contributing factors or "triggers". The most significant factors involved with Herpes outbreaks are stress and immune compromise. First and foremost, many of us are aware that stress can have a wide range of effects on the body as well as the mind. Stress can can also weaken the immune system and lead to a variety of acute or chronic illnesses. Likewise, conventional immunosuppressive therapies commonly used for various conditions including IBS or other bowel disorders, arthritis, chronic pain, and general inflammation can trigger Herpes eruptions. Patients with diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer, HIV, and other illnesses that alter immune function are also at risk. Therefore, it is very important to incorporate preventive care into Herpes treatment options which will minimize triggers in these patients. Here are some key points to remember for Herpes or VZV prevention:
- Minimize the use of caffeine or other stimulants
- Get adequate rest each night (6-8 hours)
- Find healthy ways to manage stress such as regular exercise, meditation, yoga or other stress-reducing strategies
- Consistently focus on healthy nutrition to support or boost immune function
Contact Dr. Kristy Appelhans today for more information about this topic or any health questions or concerns you have!