Most of us went through a bout of chickenpox as children. While that gave us immunity from catching it again (or at least having a severe case of it), it also gave us something not so great: the varicella-zoster virus lurking dormant in our bodies.
Once adults, that dormant virus can come to life again, resulting in shingles—an incredibly painful condition that creates rashes and blisters on the body. Often on the torso, these rashes and blisters can pop up anywhere, including the face and eyes. Once they resolve, they often leave behind a new condition: post-herpetic neuralgia. Also known as post-shingles neuralgia , this painful condition can last months or even years after the shingles outbreak clears up.
A Primer on Post-Herpetic Neuralgia
How Post-Herpetic Neuralgia Occurs
Essentially, the shingles outbreak attacks the nerves, leaving them damaged. Shingles can be brought out due to various types of stress, including a severe illness, death in the family, or financial difficulties. While the outbreak is active, it damages the nerves, causing the severe pain that shingles is known for. After, the person can be left with severe post-herpetic pain and even limited ability to move or feel the part of the body affected.
Post-Herpetic Neuralgia Symptoms
The only real symptom of post-herpetic neuralgia is the pain. This pain is localized to the area where the shingles outbreak occurred. It can be mild, moderate, severe, or fully debilitating. How long it lasts is just as varied, with some having it for just a month or so after their outbreak and others having it for years after.
Post-Herpetic Neuralgia Treatment
As with any form of nerve pain, the treatments for post-herpetic neuralgia treatment are somewhat limited. There is nothing that can be done to force the damaged nerves to repair themselves; only time can allow for a full recovery, and not everyone can achieve this. Many will have the condition for life.
While it cannot be cured, the symptoms can be managed. Anticonvulsants can help limit the ability of the nerves to send pain signals. We also can use skin patches with lidocaine to simply numb the area. Gabapentin and pregabalin are commonly prescribed, as are various types of pain medications. Antidepressants are also often part of the treatment plan to both reduce pain and help the patient sleep better. For long-term cases, electric nerve stimulation is a central therapy.
For more information on post-herpetic neuralgia and its treatments, contact us. We will set up an appointment with our post-herpetic neuralgia specialist.