Postherpetic Neuralgia

WHAT IS IT AND HOW IS IT TREATED?

woman being examined for postherpetic neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia is a chronic condition that arises as a result of shingles. Shingles is a common condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus (more commonly known as chickenpox). After the initial infection, the virus lays dormant in a person’s nerve head or ganglion until the infection flares up, leading to the development of shingles.

 

Shingles outbreaks are characterized by a rash, pain, exquisite skin sensitivity, and blisters in the nerve territory. Postherpetic neuralgia can be a long-term and painful consequence of a shingles episode.

 

Anyone who has had chickenpox can also develop shingles; however, the condition is more common in people over the age of 60. If during the shingles outbreak, nerve fibers are damaged, they may continue to send messages to the brain causing chronic, severe pain. Postherpetic neuralgia is more likely in patients who did not receive timely treatment for their shingles outbreak or had particularly severe rashing, blistering, or pain.

Symptoms

If you have had shingles, postherpetic neuralgia is most likely to occur in the area that was affected by the rash or blisters. Usually, shingles occur on one side of the body and most often affects the trunk or torso.

 

Symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia include:

  • Pain lasting more than three months
  • Described as deep burning or aching
  • Skin that is hypersensitive to touch or clothing
  • Itching
  • Numbness

Treatment

If you are diagnosed, there are several treatment pathways to help manage your pain.

 

  • Lidocaine or Capsaicin Patches
  • Anticonvulsants and antidepressants
  • Steroid injections
  • Peripheral nerve stimulation
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Dorsal (sensory) rhizotomy
  • DREZ procedure

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