Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a rash of painful, fluid-filled blisters. Acyclovir, an antiviral drug, is the usual treatment, but there is solid evidence that the amino acid lysine is also helpful in treating the virus. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lysine treats shingles by speeding recovery time, as well as reducing the chance of recurrence.
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same one that causes chickenpox. It usually affects only one side of the body and commonly appears in a band, called a dermatone, that wraps around one side of the chest, waist or neck. The first symptom you will feel is usually pain, accompanied by burning, numbness or tingling, then a red rash that develops into blisters. Fevers, headaches and fatigue are also common. If you think you may have shingles, see your doctor right away. If shingles blisters aren't properly treated, they can become infected. Two or three weeks after the blisters develop, they fill with pus, break open and start to crust over. Shingles can take four or five weeks to clear up, and some people experience lingering pain, called postherpetic neuralgia, at the site of the blisters long after they have healed. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, you must first have had an outbreak of chickenpox in order to develop shingles, which is triggered by residual virus particles in the nervous system. Roughly 20 percent of people who have had chickenpox will eventually develop shingles, usually at a time of great stress. Shingles is more common in older people--about half of the people over 80 will develop it--and people with weakened immune systems. If you're infected with shingles, you can pass the virus to anyone who hasn't had chickenpox, but that individual will develop chickenpox at that time, not shingles.
Lysine, also called l-lysine, is an essential amino acid that must be obtained from the diet; the body doesn't produce it. Because it is found in so many foods--red meat, poultry, eggs, fish, soy--deficiencies are usually found only among strict vegans. Lysine helps make carnitine, which converts fatty acids to energy, and it helps form collagen needed for bones and connective tissue. Lysine prevents herpes from spreading because it competes with arginine, another amino acid that helps the herpes virus replicate. For this reason, lysine also helps treat mouth and genital lesions caused by the herpes simplex virus. Because lysine can increase the toxicity of certain antibiotics, you must consult with your doctor before taking it.
According to Dr. Richard P. Huemer, a holistic practitioner in Lancaster, California, the optimal dose for lysine is 500 to 1,000 mgs three times a day during an outbreak, and 1,000 mgs daily for prevention. Shingles can be a painful disease, and it has a nasty habit of descending on you when your life is already stressful. Lysine is a useful weapon to use against it.