The Help For Post Herpetic Neuralgia
By Neurosurgery Singapore
What is Post Herpetic Neuralgia?
Post herpetic neuralgia is a painful condition that affects your nerves and skin. It’s a commonly known as shingles.
Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash caused by a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus.
People usually contract this virus in childhood or adolescence as chickenpox. The virus can remain dormant in the body’s nerve cells after childhood and reactivate decades later.
When the pain caused by shingles doesn’t go away after the rash and blisters clear up, the condition is called post herpetic neuralgia.
This is the most common shingles complication. It occurs when a shingles outbreak damages the nerves.
The damaged nerves can’t send messages from the skin to the brain, and the messages become confused. This results in chronic, severe pain that can last for months.
What are some underlying symptoms of Post Herpetic Neuralgia?
The signs and symptoms of post herpetic neuralgia are generally limited to the area of your skin where the shingles outbreak first occurred — most commonly in a band around your trunk, usually on one side of your body.
Signs and symptoms might include:
- Pain that lasts three months or longer after the shingles rash has healed. The associated pain has been described as burning, sharp and jabbing, or deep and aching.
- Sensitivity to light touch. People with the condition often can’t bear even the touch of clothing on the affected skin (allodynia).
- Itching and numbness. Less commonly, it can produce an itchy feeling or numbness.
“Many people with post-herpetic neuralgia make a full recovery within a year. But symptoms occasionally last for several years or may be permanent.”
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What types of diagnosis?
Most of the time, our Neurologist is able to make a diagnosis of post herpetic neuralgia based on how long you’ve experienced pain following shingles. Tests are unnecessary in confirming a diagnosis.
Early treatment is key for preventing post herpetic neuralgia. Seeking medical help as soon as signs or symptoms of shingles appear can greatly reduce the chances of developing neuralgia.
Aggressive treatment of shingles within 2 days of the rash appearing helps reduce both the risk of developing subsequent neuralgia and the length and severity if it does.
Possible treatment methods?
No single treatment relieves post herpetic neuralgia for everyone. It often takes a combination of treatments to reduce the pain.
These are small, bandage-like patches that contain the topical pain-relieving medication lidocaine. These patches can be cut to fit only the affected area.
Certain anti-seizure medications can lessen the pain. These medications stabilize abnormal electrical activity in your nervous system caused by injured nerves. Side effects include drowsiness, unclear thinking, unsteadiness and swelling in the feet.
Certain antidepressants affect key brain chemicals that play a role in both depression and how your body interprets pain. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants in smaller doses than they do for depression alone.
Common side effects of these medications include drowsiness, dry mouth, lightheadedness and weight gain.
Steroids are sometimes injected into the spine (intrathecal or epidural) for post herpetic neuralgia. However, evidence of effectiveness is inconsistent.