Postherpetic neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that affects nerve fibers and skin from shingles, a viral infection (herpes zoster) that produces a painful rash on parts of the body. This condition is considered a complication of the shingles virus that primarily affects populations over the age of 60. Although there is no cure for postherpetic neuralgia, there are medication and interventional pain treatments to ease symptoms.
Postherpetic Neuralgia (Shingles Pain) Causes
The virus that causes chickenpox (varicella herpes zoster) remains dormant in the body and may reactive, resulting in shingles. Once the virus becomes active, it affects the nerve fibers and may cause severe damage. If extensive damage occurs, nerve fibers will not be able to send messages from the skin to the brain, which often results in chronic pain lasting months or years.
Postherpetic Neuralgia (Shingles Pain) Symptoms
Symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia usually impact the area where the shingles outbreak occurred. Signs of postherpetic neuralgia may include:
- Burning, sharp or aching pain
- Sensitivity to light touch (allodynia)
- Itching or numbness in the area affected
- Muscle weakness
Postherpetic Neuralgia (Shingles Pain) Treatments
Patients may benefit from a combination of treatment options to reduce postherpetic neuralgia symptoms. Treatments that may be considered include: