Postherpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles, which affects the nerve fibers and skin, resulting in a burning pain.
Following a shingles infection, some people may develop postherpetic neuralgia, an extremely painful complication which is the result of viral nerve cell damage. Postherpetic neuralgia typically lasts a couple of months, but can last even longer than a year. The elderly, as well as those with relatives who have shingles, seem to be at a higher risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia. People who have received the shingles vaccine, Zostavax, can potentially prevent postherpetic neuralgia.
Complications of postherpetic neuralgia include severe pain, a diminishment of quality of life, addiction to pain medications, and paralysis of the affected area. The pain experienced from postherpetic neuralgia is in the area of the body which had shingles, and usually begins about the time the shingles lesions are beginning to crust over and heal.
Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis of Postherpetic Neuralgia
Most experts believe postherpetic neuralgia is the result of damage to the pain-registering nerves. This occurs when the reactivated shingles virus travels down the nerves to the skin. The process begins when a child or adult contracts chickenpox, which can infect nerve cells as it subsides.
Since the chickenpox vaccine was licensed for use in the United States in 1995, those who received the vaccine are unlikely to ever develop shingles or postherpetic neuralgia. Baby boomers appear to be the group with the highest risk of developing shingles, and the older you are when you develop shingles, the more likely you are to develop postherpetic neuralgia. Reactivation of the chickenpox virus usually occurs decades later, and is believed to be from compromised immunity or another infection.
The primary symptom of postherpetic neuralgia is pain, which can be severe, and is often described as aching, deep, jabbing, sharp and burning. The pain often increases when any pressure is on the area, including clothing, or the touch of another person. Some of those with postherpetic neuralgia also experience paralysis of the area and itchy skin. Diagnosis of postherpetic neuralgia is usually through a follow-up doctor visit for a shingles infection, along with patient reporting of symptoms.
Treatments for Postherpetic Neuralgia
The interventional pain management specialists at Seattle Pain understand that the pain associated with your postherpetic neuralgia can completely derail your life. We also understand that this pain can be difficult to treat. As such, we will develop a customized, comprehensive pain treatment program, using traditional and non-traditional pain treatments, including:
- Narcotic pain control medications
- Lidocaine skin patches
- Nerve blocks
Contact Our Seattle Interventional Pain Management Specialists
At Seattle Pain, our primary goal is to relieve your pain and improve your quality of life. We believe in treating the whole patient – and not just the injury. You do not have to live in pain. Call us today at 253-944-1289 or complete a contact form today.