When Shingles Hurts Even Worse: Postherpetic Neuralgia

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of the population will get shingles in their lifetime. Shingles is a reemergence of the chickenpox virus, but it is much more harrowing to many. Up to 15% of those people suffer longer than the outbreak of the painful rash and blisters that signal shingles is afoot. Those unlucky patients experience postherpetic neuralgia, a complication of shingles.

What is Postherpetic Neuralgia?

 Postherpetic Neuralgia stems from an outbreak of shingles. It presents when the shingle rash and blisters cause semi-permanent damage to the nerves, which in turn results in pain. Depending upon the severity, it can be seriously detrimental to a patient’s life – leading to further debilitating illnesses, like depression and insomnia.

What Does Postherpetic Neuralgia Feel Like?

 Postherpetic neuralgia occurs at the site of the rash or rashes associated with the shingles outbreak. A deep pain lingers, and can be experienced differently by all sufferers. The area may also feel numb, tingly, or itchy – and the patient may begin experiencing sensory issues, finding themselves unable to handle anything touching the area.

Why Do Some People Get Postherpetic Neuralgia, and Some Don’t?

 Luckily, a relatively small percentage of shingles sufferers will continue to feel the associated pain long after the rash goes away. The patients who do develop postherpetic neuralgia tend to be over the age of 50, and the rash was located on their face or torso area. Some suffer from diabetes, which also comes with complications that affect the nerves permanently.

If the patient begins taking an antiviral medication within 72 hours from the onset of their shingles rash, they can dramatically reduce the chance of postherpetic neuralgia emerging after they’ve healed.

How is Postherpetic Neuralgia Diagnosed?

 It’s imperative that people suffering from shingles be under the care of a doctor. Follow-up care should include appointments to determine any lasting complications. The patient should share any and all symptoms with the doctor, who can determine if the length of time and combination of symptoms should lead to the diagnosis of postherpetic neuralgia.

How is Postherpetic Neuralgia Treated?

 There is no cure for postherpetic neuralgia. That being said, the painful ailment does lessen in intensity over time, and it’s possible it will disappear completely eventually.

There are many management options for patients who are waiting for their permanent relief, which could be many months, if not years, away.

If you’re suffering from postherpetic neuralgia, ask your doctor if pain medications, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, capsaicin, lidocaine, or injections are options of relief that fit your unique prognosis. If your symptoms have lasted for a long time, you may want to discuss a spinal cord stimulator implant. The small device is placed, and releases a miniscule pulse to the spinal cord – a signal that tells your body to ignore the pain.

Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with Premier Pain & Spine if you think you have shingles, or if you fear you’ve developed postherpetic neuralgia. You don’t have to suffer through the pain.

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