Many patients having Lyme disease are afraid of contracting Shingles after their diagnosis of Lyme disease. The reverse is also true: patients with Shingles are also known to sometimes develop Lyme disease a few weeks/months or years down the line. So how are the two conditions related to each other? What is the reason for developing a Shingles rash following Lyme disease? Or are these simply misconceptions and myths that are circulating around the World Wide Web?
Let us try and clear up the doubts about Shingles and Lyme disease connection.
Shingles and Lyme disease connection
A patient was bitten by a tick on her elbow. She developed a rash, but her doctor said that it was not Lyme disease, as the area she lived in did not have that disease. The rash was, said the doctor, simply a result of her scratching the tick bite. A few weeks later though, the patient developed shingles rash.
What is Shingles? What is its connection with Lyme disease?
Shingles is a viral disease characterized by a painful rash mainly on the torso and sometimes on the face. It usually occurs in patients with weakened immune system and is typically seen in elderly populations. Shingles disease affects the patient at the nerve level in that; the virus called Varicella Zoster virus affects the nerves while also causing a painful rash on the body. Almost all patients who have suffered from chicken pox in their childhood have the dormant Varicella Zoster virus inside them. As a result, when they become sick or develop a weaker immunity, they tend to suffer from Shingles in adulthood.
Lyme disease on the other hand, is basically caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. These microorganisms are present in many animals including deer, pheasants, rodents etc. If a deer tick bites you, you are likely to develop Lyme disease based on your overall health condition and also on the time period for which the tick remains attached to your body. The main symptoms of Lyme disease are bull’s eye rashes along with fever, flu-like symptoms, joint pain, fatigue, sudden memory loss, lack of appetite, inability to concentrate etc.
Elderly populations as well as very young children with weaker immune systems are more likely to develop Lyme disease.In the US, an estimated 200,000 people are affected by Lyme disease each year. The Lyme bacterium attaches itself to the synovial fluid of the joints and leads to many debilitating neurological symptoms.In older patents, Lyme also becomes a chronic disease as its symptoms such as joint pain, headache, fever, language difficulties, attention and memory problems etc keep returning every few months. Many patients also develop a bout of shingles suddenly. So, the link between Shingles and Lyme disease is the fact that one’s immunity is compromised and that both diseases affect the patient at the neurological level.
Treatment for Lyme and Shingles
Most doctors recommend antibiotics for Lyme disease. Even chronic Lyme is treated with drug therapy. Shingles on the other hand require anti viral medications. Also, some patients might be given steroids for pain relief that is a part of Shingles disease.However, some experts believe that steroids should be used as the last resort as they have various harmful side effects.Over 30% of patients who have had chicken pox in their lifetime will also likely develop shingles at least once in their adulthood. So, if they happen to get Lyme disease, they are very likely to develop shingles due to their weaker immunity. Hence, immunity boosting must be made a part of treatment for both diseases.
What can you do to prevent Lyme and Shingles? Herbal remedies for immunity building
Lyme disease is preventable and one can take following steps:
- Avoid grassy trails
- Spray DEET or other insect repellents all over clothes and body when camping or hiking
- Check yourself for ticks after you have come back home from spending time in woods, especially when you live in tick infested areas.
- Wear full sleeved shirts and long pants preferably tucked inside socks and closed shoes when walking on grassy trails and wooded areas.
To prevent shingles:
You can get the VZV or varicella vaccine which is a weakened version of the virus that causes shingles. Some people have seen some positive results owing to the vaccine though others have developed side effects that can be unpleasant.
You could also try herbal remedies such as Nettle leaf tea, Cat’s Claw, St John’s Wort, Astragalus, Pau d’Arco and Cinnamon etc as these can improve immunity and reduce effects of shingles as well as Lyme disease. Japanese Knotweed and Echinacea tinctures can also be taken on regular basis as advised by herbalists.These are preventive remedies and must only be taken under the expert guidance. Also, keep a watch for rashes of any kind- many herbs as well as conventional medicines are known to work quite well provided they are taken quickly as soon as a diagnosis has been made.