Postherpetic neuralgia is the continuation of pain in the skin following shingles. Postherpetic neuralgia occurs when the rash and blisters from shingles have cleared up, while pain in the nerve fibers and skin persists. Postherpetic neuralgia, when severe enough, can interfere with daily life and cause trouble sleeping and eating. The chances of getting postherpetic neuralgia vary with the part of the body affected by shingles. Usually, shingles on the face is more likely to result in postherpetic neuralgia than shingles on other parts of the body. There is no cure for postherpetic neuralgia. However, various types of treatment are available to ease the severity of symptoms. Usually, postherpetic neuralgia improves with time.
Postherpetic Neuralgia Symptoms
Pain that continues for three months following shingles constitutes postherpetic neuralgia. Usually, postherpetic neuralgia occurs in the same area of the body affected by shingles. The severity of pain caused by postherpetic neuralgia may vary greatly.
- Persistence of pain, either burning pain, sharp pain, or aches, following shingles
- Scarring on area of body affected by shingles
- Changes in skin sensitivity in affected area, such as itching or numbness
- Extreme sensitivity to touch. For example, severe discomfort when wearing clothing
- Rarer symptoms include muscle weakness or paralysis
Postherpetic Neuralgia Causes
Postherpetic neuralgia is the continuation of bodily pain long after the isolated rashes caused by shingles have cleared up. Postherpetic neuralgia occurs when a shingles outbreak damages the nerve fibers in the affected area, keeping them from functioning properly and causing pain of varying severity. Shingles occurs when the chickenpox virus-which, once had, never actually leaves the body-resurfaces due to stress or a weakened immune system. However, since the body has developed defenses against the chickenpox virus, isolated rashes, known as shingles, occur on specific parts of the body, as opposed to a rash on the entire body. Postherpetic neuralgia can last a long time after shingles, anywhere from months to whole years.
Postherpetic Neuralgia Diagnosis
A patient may only have postherpetic neuralgia if they have had shingles and chickenpox in the past. Postherpetic neuralgia is usually diagnosed during a follow-up of a shingles outbreak, if pain persists in the area previously affected by shingles.
Postherpetic Neuralgia Treatment
There is no cure for postherpetic neuralgia, though cases may be treated depending on the individual’s symptoms. Treatment of postherpetic neuralgia varies with each patient, as the areas of the body affected and the severity of pain may differ greatly. Below is a list of the most common forms of treatment for postherpetic neuralgia. These methods temporarily reduce pain, while lasting relief requires time.