Postherpetic Neuralgia (Shingles Pain)

Definition:
Postherpetic neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that is caused by shingles, a viral disease that reactivates the chickenpox (herpes zoster) virus in the body. Shingles cause a painful rash in the form of blisters along the chest and abdomen. Postherpetic neuralgia is characterized as pain that lasts after the shingles rash has disappeared. This condition causes a burning pain within the nerve fibers and skin affected by the herpes zoster virus. While there is no cure for postherpetic neuralgia, there are interventional treatment options for patients suffering from this condition. The TriState Pain Institute team may recommend interventional and alternative therapies in conjunction with home remedies to mitigate a patient’s shingles pain.

Causes:
Postherpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles. It occurs when the nerve fibers near a shingles outbreak become damaged; sending exaggerated or confused pain signals to the brain. This condition is most common in patients over the age of 50 who had severe cases of shingles. Patients suffering from other chronic illness (like diabetes) and have a suppressed immune system may also be at risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia. Despite some of these risks, anyone who’s had the chickenpox and shingles could develop postherpetic neuralgia.

Symptoms:
Symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia are typically limited to the area where a patient’s shingles outbreak first occurred. The most common sign of this condition is pain that lasts three or more months after the shingles rash has healed. Patients often describe the pain as burning, sharp, and jabbing; or dull and aching. Rarely, patients may experience sensitivity to touch, itchiness, or numbness.

Treatments:
As mentioned previously, there are a number of treatment options for patients with shingles pain. A topical ointment or skin patch containing lidocaine or capsaicin may be applied to the affected area during an office visit at the TriState Pain Institute. These patches are typically left on the skin for up to two hours, and patients may experience pain relief for up to three months. Should these patches be unsuccessful at providing long lasting relief, a pain management specialist may recommend steroid injections to reduce inflammation in the area. Home remedies such as taking over-the-counter pain medications, applying nonprescription strength capsaicin or lidocaine cream, and icing the affected area, may be suggested in conjunction with interventional treatment at the TriState Pain Institute. 

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