Postherpetic neuralgia is a complication of herpes zoster (shingles) that causes pain affecting nerves and skin.
The chickenpox virus causes shingles (a painful skin rash with blisters), and after someone has shingles, the condition usually clears up. If the rash and blisters go away and the pain still remains, this condition is known as postherpetic neuralgia. The nerves become damaged from the shingles outbreak and result in a severe, chronic pain lasting for weeks, months, or years. This condition is usually considered postherpetic neuralgia 90 days after the rash starts or 30 days after the rash is gone.
Treatment options may include:
- Numbing patches
- Over-the-counter medications
- Prescription drugs
- Steroid injections
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Appetite loss
- Burning sensation
- Deep pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Jabbing pain
- Sensitivity to pressure, touch (allodynia), or temperature
- Severe pain in the same spot where shingles occurred that lasts for more than 30 days
- Sharp pain
Diagnostic tests include: Usually, tests for postherpetic neuralgia are not necessary because the doctor will recognize the condition based on the duration and location of the patient’s pain symptoms after having shingles.
Causes & contributing factors may include:
- Chickenpox virus
- Viral damage to the nerve cells due to shingles
- Triggers that can cause the shingles virus to reoccur are age, illness, and stress.
- It occurs in 10 – 15% of shingles patients.
- It can last anywhere from a few weeks to several years.
- Doctors don’t know exactly why some people develop postherpetic neuralgia.
- It is more common in people more than 50 years old.