December 16, 2014
Although older people usually suffer from shingles, the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) can actually infect people of all ages. Research shows that when the immune system is damaged, the virus can attack the eye. This condition is called herpes zoster opthalmicus (HZO).
In up to 31% of those with HZO, the virus causes paralysis in muscles outside of the eye.
Dr. Chaker and colleagues wrote in a recent study that, “HZO may cause extraocular muscle palsies of the third, fourth, and sixth cranial nerves in 7-31% of patients … the extraocular muscle palsies (muscular paralysis) usually appear 2-4 weeks after the rash, but sometimes occurs simultaneously with the rash or more than 4 weeks later.” (See the Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice. from April, 2014)(1) Dr. Chaker and colleagues are part of the Faculty of Medicine of Tunis at the University of El Manar in Tunisia.
Allow us to point out that Herpes Zoster (HZ), commonly called shingles, is a distinctive syndrome caused by reactivation of varicella zoster virus (VZV). This reactivation happens whenever immunity to VZV declines as a result of aging or immunosuppression (a damaged immune system).
Herpes Zoster can happen at any age, yet it “commonly affects the elderly population.” (See Mayo Clinic Proceedings, from March 2009)(2) When the immune system is damaged, a latent virus, such as VZV, can increase in number, causing shingles, and resulting diseases.
The CDC notes that “Nearly 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. Anyone who has had chickenpox or received chickenpox vaccine in the past may develop shingles.” (See CDC, last updated May 1, 2014)(3)
In addition to muscular paralysis, herpes zoster can also cause the following conditions in the eye: “conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva, the outermost layer of the eye, and the inner surface of the eyelids), keratitis (inflammation of the eye’s cornea), episcleritis (inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that lies between the conjunctiva and the connective tissue layer that forms the white of the eye), scleritis (a serious inflammatory disease that affects the white outer coating of the eye), uveitis (inflammation of the uvea), secondary glaucoma (a condition characterized by fluid pressure in the eye that can lead to blindness), cataract (a clouding of the lens inside the eye which leads to a decrease in vision), and retinal necrosis (an aggressive, necrotizing inflammation of the eye’s retina).” (1)
Are there effective treatments against the VZV?
WebMD says that, “several antiviral medicines-acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir-are available to treat shingles. These medicines will help shorten the length and severity of the illness. But to be effective, they must be started as soon as possible after the rash appears. Thus, people who have or think they might have shingles should call their healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss treatment options. Analgesics (pain medicine) may help relieve the pain caused by shingles. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching.” (See WebMD, last updated May 1, 2014)(4)
Allow us to remind everyone that there are also two safe and effective natural VZV remedies designed to help the immune system target the latent virus. These remedies are Novirin and Gene-Eden-VIR. The formula of these products was tested in two separate post-marketing clinical studies, which found that the formula was antiviral, and that it reduced symptoms caused by herpes viruses. (See Pharmacology & Pharmacy, August 2013)(5)
(1) Chaker N, Bouladi M, Chebil A, Jemmeli M, Mghaieth F, El Matri L. Herpes zoster ophthalmicus associated with abducens palsy. J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2014 Apr;5(2):180-2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24966563
(2) Priya Sampathkumar, MD, Lisa A. Drage, MD, and David P. Martin, MD, PhD Herpes Zoster (Shingles) and Postherpetic Neuralgia. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. March 2009.
(3) CDC – Shingles (Herpes Zoster). Last updated May 1, 2014.
(4) WebMD – Shingles Health Center – Topic Overview. Last updated December 18, 2012. webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/shingles-topic-overview
(5) Polansky H, Itzkovitz E. Gene-Eden-VIR Is Antiviral: Results of a Post Marketing Clinical Study. Pharmacology & Pharmacy, 2013, 4, 1-8