Pain

What is Postherpetic Neuralgia

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Postherpetic Neuralgia is a complication of shingles which is caused by the chickenpox virus and can cause burning, stabbing pain long after the shingles rash and blisters are gone.

  • Symptoms include:
  • Pain that lasts longer than 3 months after the shingles rash has healed
  • Sensitivity to a light touch and often you can’t wear clothes because of the pain
  • Itching and numbness can occur but is less common
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph glands

An individual should go to the Doctor at the first sign of shingles as there are antiviral drugs you can take within 72 hours of the shingles outbreak. The medication can also stop an individual from getting Postherpetic Neuralgia.

If a person has had Chickenpox, the virus remains in their body for the rest of their life. If an individual has a compromised immune system from certain medications, the virus can become active again causing shingles. If a person's nerve fibers are damaged from shingles, Postherpetic Neuralgia can cause chronic pain that can last for months or even years.

People who are susceptible to having Postherpetic Neuralgia may be asked if they:

  • Are over the age of 50
  • Had what severity of shingles
  • Have a chronic disease such as Diabetes
  • Had shingles that were on the face or torso
  • Are depressed
  • Have fatigue
  • Have difficulty sleeping
  • Lack an appetite
  • Have difficulty concentrating

Vaccines and Treatment:

  • The Herpes Zoster vaccine has been shown to greatly decrease the risk of shingles especially in individuals over the age of 60 and are not on immune suppressing medications.
  • Lidocaine skin patches (supplied by your pharmacy) can help manage the pain
  • Capsaicin Skin patches are stronger and can only be applied in your Doctors office
  • Anticonvulsants (seizure medications) can help with pain management but there are side effects with these medications so it would be best to discuss this with the Doctor
  • Antidepressants, they can help with the depression and pain and they are usually prescribed in smaller doses
  • Opioid Painkillers, the medications used can cause a lot of side effects and should only be used if all else fails as they can become addictive
  • Steroid injections are injected into the spine for Postherpetic Neuralgia but their effectiveness is not consistent

Living with Postherpetic Neuralgia can be very challenging but with good pain management and support from friends and family and patience on the part of the individual being treated, they will recover from Postherpetic Neuralgia in time.

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