Postherpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles that affects nerve fibers and skin causing a burning pain that lingers long after the rash and blisters of the outbreak disappears. OPTIMAL Pain & Regenerative Medicine shares information on the causes, symptoms and treatments of post herpetic neuralgia for patients in the Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas area.
What are the Causes of Postherpetic Neuralgia?
Postherpetic neuralgia is a painful complication that occurs after a shingles outbreak. The complication is caused by viral damage to the nerves. The damaged fibers cannot send messages from the skin to the brain as they normally do. The outcome is confused messages leading to chronic, sometimes excruciating pain that may last several months to several years.
Older individuals over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of developing post herpetic neuralgia. Other risk factors include the severity of the shingles outbreak, if the shingles developed on the face or torso and an existing, underlying health condition such as diabetes.
What are the Symptoms of Postherpetic Neuralgia?
The symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia are generally limited to the affected area where the shingles first occurred. Common symptoms include pain that lasts three months or longer after the rash and blisters healed, sensitivity to touch and itching or numbness.
Patients are encouraged to visit a physician at the first signs of a shingles outbreak. The risk of developing post herpetic neuralgia is lessened if antiviral medications are taken within 72 hours of the first signs.
What are the Treatments for Postherpetic Neuralgia?
The majority of patients diagnosed with postherpetic neuralgia are at a follow-up appointment after a shingles outbreak. In order to reach a diagnosis, the pain needs to be located in the same affected area. In most cases, no tests are necessary.
Post herpetic neuralgia treatments are designed for each patient at an individual level. Physicians commonly use more than one treatment option such as steroid injections, lidocaine skin patches, capsaicin skin patches, opioid painkillers and anticonvulsants to alleviate the chronic pain.
The only preventative measure is the herpes zoster vaccine for patients over the age of 50. Post herpetic neuralgia cannot occur without a shingles outbreak.
If you recently experienced a shingles outbreak and have chronic pain after the rash and blisters healed, please contact OPTIMAL Pain & Regenerative Medicine to determine if the cause of pain is postherpetic neuralgia.