What Is the Relationship Between Lysine and Shingles?

Lysine supplements have not been shown to be helpful in treating shingles.
The structure of lysine.
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  • Written By: S.J. Merens
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Images By: Steve Silver Smith, Bioreg Images
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2014
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Shingles is a painful medical condition that is caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus in the body. This virus also causes chicken pox. L-lysine is an amino acid that shows some promise for preventing and treating herpes simplex 1 and 2, two types of a virus that causes genital herpes and cold sores. As of 2011, any relationship between lysine and shingles was believed to be theoretical.

After a person has chicken pox, the varicella-zoster virus remains in the body in a dormant state. For reasons that are unclear, some people experience a reactivation of this virus later in life. Anyone who has had chicken pox might develop shingles, but the condition is more common in older adults and in people who have weakened immune systems.

Shingles most often begins with pain along a nerve line on one side of the body. The pain might be severe. A rash of blisters along this nerve line usually develops as well, but some people who have shingles don't get a rash. Shingles also might involve itchiness, tingling sensations, fatigue, headaches and a fever and chills. The condition resolves on its own, but treatment with prescription antiviral medication can reduce its duration and decrease the risk of complications.

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Lysine is an essential amino acid. The body requires this nutrient, and it must be obtained by eating protein-rich foods or taking supplements. In addition to having several important roles for general health, lysine has antiviral effects and prevents herpes simplex 1 and 2 from replicating. Research indicates that outbreaks of genital herpes and cold sores might be reduced or prevented by taking lysine supplements regularly. Taking lysine might also lessen the severity and duration of an outbreak that does occur, but research on this usage had produced conflicting results as of 2011.

The benefits of lysine for people who have herpes simplex has led some doctors to theorize that the amino acid might also be helpful for treating shingles. Herpes zoster is not the same virus as herpes simplex, however, although they are related. As of 2011, research was lacking on lysine and shingles, and no scientific evidence supported using lysine to help treat shingles.

Lysine generally is considered a safe supplement when used on a short-term basis. Standard doses during a herpes simplex flare-up range from 3,000 to 9,000 milligrams per day. To prevent recurrences, people might take 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams per day. Research had not found any relationship between lysine and shingles as of 2011, so the supplement might not help treat the condition, but it likely will not cause harm.

Even if lysine and shingles do have a connection, the condition still calls for medical treatment. Left untreated, shingles can lead to complications, such as a bacterial skin infection. Early treatment with antiviral drugs might prevent a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia, which involves pain that persists long after a case of shingles has been resolved.

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Discuss this Article

donasmrs
Post 3

@ZipLine-- Shingles is not caused by the herpes type 1 virus or the herpes type 2 virus. But it's still caused by a type of herpes virus. Varicella-zoster virus belongs to the herpes group of viruses. That's why it's sometimes referred to herpes varicella-zoster.

This may be why some people take lysine when they develop a shingles rash. But when it comes to treatment, we have to take the word of scientists who have studied lysine and shingles. Studies have not found lysine to be affective against the varicella-zoster virus. So it's doesn't make sense to claim otherwise.

If people have had experiences in the contrary however, I would love to hear about them.

ZipLine
Post 2

Wait, so shingles is not herpes? I thought they were the same thing. Lysine will obviously not work for shingles then. It works for herpes.

fBoyle
Post 1

I think that there must be a connection between lysine and shingles. I'm not saying that lysine could treat the condition, but it may help the immune system fight the virus and reduce healing time.

As far as I know, lysine is important for immune system cells. It helps fight herpes also because it makes the immune system stronger. Some people also take lysine in winter to avoid getting the flu. So there is definitely a connection between lysine and the immune system. So it probably wouldn't hurt someone with shingles to take a lysine supplement after seeing a doctor and getting proper medical treatment for the shingles.

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