Characteristics Of Shingles Pain
The varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in your nerve cells after you have chickenpox. If it reactivates, the virus travels through a nerve path in your body. Common descriptions of shingles symptoms include sensitivity to touch, itching, and nerve pain.
Cases of shingles often begin with a strange, tingling sensation in your skin. Then, oozing blisters develop. You can transmit the virus to people who havent had chickenpox at this stage if they come in contact with the blisters.
Once the blisters crust over, others cant get the virus. People who have had chickenpox cant catch the virus from others, because its already in their bodies.
The blistering patches characteristic of shingles usually appear on one side of your torso, wrapping around your waist. In rare cases, the rash may develop on one side of your face. Pain and blistering may last for several weeks.
Over-the-counter medications are generally ineffective for shingles. Depending on the severity of your condition, steroid or antidepressant medication can help manage symptoms until the blisters clear up.
When Shingles Hurts Even Worse: Postherpetic Neuralgia
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of the population will get shingles in their lifetime. Shingles is a reemergence of the chickenpox virus, but it is much more harrowing to many. Up to 15% of those people suffer longer than the outbreak of the painful rash and blisters that signal shingles is afoot. Those unlucky patients experience postherpetic neuralgia, a complication of shingles.
When Shingles Pain Doesnt Stop: Coping With Postherpetic Neuralgia
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, will affect about 1 in 3 Americans during their lifetime. For most, the itching and painful rash will run their course over two to four weeks, and that will be the end of it.
Unfortunately, about 10-13 percent of people who develop shingles will continue to have pain after the other symptoms are gone.
This pain, called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN, usually lasts only a few weeks or months. But for some people, the pain can persist for years. PHN can afflict anyone whos had shingles, but the risk of developing it increases with age.
If youre one of the unfortunate PHN sufferers, your doctor may recommend one of several treatment options:
The best answer, of course, is to never contract shingles and never develop PHN in the first place.
Shingles is caused by the virus that causes chickenpox, and anyone whos had chickenpox can get it, although its more common in older adults. The virus lies dormant in the body and can resurface years after you recover from chickenpox.
Fortunately, vaccines are available that can prevent or lessen the severity of shingles. If youre over 50 and had chickenpox as a child, talk to your doctor about getting the vaccine.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physicians advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.
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Is It Possible To Prevent Postherpetic Neuralgia
Zostavax, the herpes zoster vaccine , has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of shingles. The vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for adults age 50 and older, and is recommended for all adults 60 and older who arent allergic to the vaccine and who dont take immune-suppressing medications.
People age 50 to 59 may want to talk to their doctor about the shingles vaccine, if they are having ongoing pain or skin issues or have a weakened immune system. The vaccination is not a guarantee that shingles will not occur however, those who get the vaccine usually experience a shorter period of pain.
Hearing Loss And Facial Weakness
Complications of herpes zoster oticus and Ramsay Hunt syndrome might include hearing loss and facial weakness. For most people, these are temporary symptoms, but it is possible for the damage to become permanent, especially if shingles is left untreated.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome accounts for up to 12% of facial paralysis. In some cases, it has a worse outcome than Bells palsya condition that causes temporary weakness in the muscles of the face.
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Shingles And Nerve Paths
Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. Only people whove had chickenpox or chickenpox vaccines can develop shingles. Having a chickenpox vaccine can lead to shingles because the vaccine contains the virus that causes chickenpox.
Shingles isnt contagious, but people who have not had chickenpox can develop chickenpox if they come in contact with open blisters of somebody with shingles.
After your body fights off a chickenpox infection, the herpes zoster virus remains dormant in your cranial nerves and spinal ganglia until it becomes reactivated. Spinal ganglia are nerve cells that connect your spinal cord to nerves in your body and limbs.
The virus reactivates when your immune system is no longer able to suppress it. Reactivation most commonly occurs in older adults because the immune system tends to get weaker with age, as well as in people with suppressed immune systems.
Once the virus is active, it usually spreads down sensory nerve fibers that lead from your spinal cord to your skin. These nerves carry sensory information like feelings of pain, itchiness, or pressure from your skin to your spinal cord and brain.
Once the virus gets to the end of these sensory nerves, it reaches your skin and usually leads to a rash. This rash often shows up in one or two nearby areas of skin called dermatomes.
A dermatome is an area of your skin where the sensation is supplied by one spinal nerve.
What Is A Tens Unit
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, is a method of pain relief that involves the use of a moderate electrical current. It is a small machine, and it is battery-operated. It has leads that are connected to sticky pads called electrodes.
A TENS unit is a non-invasive method used for relieving pain. Some people are able to reduce the intake of pain medications thanks to the TENS unit.
The unit is also very convenient because it is quite small, portable, and discrete. You can carry it in your pocket, or clip it onto a belt to ensure that you have instant access to pain relief throughout the day.
It has controls that allow people to apply an appropriate level of pain relief. This can be achieved by altering some aspects of the electrical current, such as intensity, frequency, and duration.
The frequency refers to the number of electrical impulses per second. High-frequency pulses range from 80 to 120 cycles per second, and they are believed to help acute pain.
Low-frequency pulses range from 1 to 20 cycles per second and are more suitable for the treatment of chronic pain.
Need to know how to use the settings on your TENS unit? Click here
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Antidepressants May Offer Surprising Relief
Antidepressants may have been invented for depression, but they are also known to modulate peripheral nerves, Dr. Auwaerter says, thereby dulling PHN pain. Your physician may suggest Pamelor or Aventyl or Elavil . Dr. Auwaerter adds that these medications can sometimes cause side effects like fatigue and sluggishnessthough PHN patients usually only need a low dose, which is unlikely to cause major adverse effects.
How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Diagnosed
Its imperative that people suffering from shingles be under the care of a doctor. Follow-up care should include appointments to determine any lasting complications. The patient should share any and all symptoms with the doctor, who can determine if the length of time and combination of symptoms should lead to the diagnosis of postherpetic neuralgia.
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If You Have Shingles Symptoms Get Treatment Now And You May Avoid Permanent Nerve Pain
Shingles, a viral infection of the nerve roots, affects 1 million people in the U.S each year. Most people recover from their bout, but for as many as 50% of those over age 60 who have not been treated, the pain doesn’t go away. It can last for months, years, or even the rest of their lives.
These people have what’s called postherpetic neuralgia , the result of the shingles virus damaging the nerves of the skin. In some cases, the pain is mild. In others, even the slightest touch — from clothing or even a breeze — can be excruciating.
“PHN causes a great deal of suffering and high social costs,” says Robert H. Dworkin, PhD, a professor in the department of anesthesiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y. “It can severely disrupt people’s lives.”
But the good news is that there are drugs that can help treat and even prevent PHN, and doctors are learning more about who is at greatest risk of developing this debilitating condition.
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Other Treatment Recommendations For Shingles
If you think you have shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible. This increases the effectiveness of any treatment your doctor will prescribe for you. The treatment doesnt cure shingles. Its meant to help you manage the pain.
Besides acupuncture, you can use other methods to manage your pain. These include:
- antiviral drugs such as Famvir, Zovirax, and Valtrex
- over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers
- calamine lotion, colloidal oatmeal, andwet compresses
Two vaccines are available for adults ages 50 years and older. The Food and Drug Administration approved Shingrix and Zostavax for use. These vaccines reduce the risk of getting shingles. If an older adult still gets shingles after being vaccinated, the symptoms may be less intense.
Shingrix, made from a dead germ, is the preferred vaccine. People with weakened immune systems can get it. Its risky for this group to get the Zostavax vaccine, which contains a live but weakened germ.
Zostavax has not been sold in the United States since November 18, 2020. If you received this vaccine, the
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What Is The Science Behind Shingles
Even though full recovery from chickenpox is the norm, once the Varicella Zoster virus is in your body, it settles in your nervous system and can lay dormant until triggered where it then develops as Shingles. Albeit Shingles is very contagious, it is usually triggered by a compromised immune system. Its important to note that not everyone who has had chickenpox will get Shingles .
The Varicella Zoster virus mainly affects the nervous system, as the particles from chickenpox settle into the nerve cells. When the virus is reactivated, the particles spread along the nerve fibers resulting in more severe pain and discomfort felt than during a bout of chickenpox. Thus, it is imperative to supplement your body with a formula that helps both repair and protect the nerve cells that are damaged by offering a multi-faceted approach to fast, effective healing and prevention.
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Pain And Sensitivity Management
For some individuals, the pain associated with shingles can get pretty intense, and increased sensitivity can make even a cool breeze feel excruciating. To manage discomfort, try using one of the following methods, or combine them to find what works for you.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve bodily pain, as well as ease headaches and reduce fever. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any of these medications, however, because some may cause issues with your stomach or liver, depending on your medical history or dosage.
- Cool compresses can be made using a washcloth held under cool water. Avoid using ice packs because extreme temperatures can make the pain worse or hurt sensitive skin.
- Hypnosis has been shown to help relieve various forms of pain, though it might not work for everyone.
- Comfort therapylike listening to music, talking with friends, or doing other activities you enjoycan help keep your mind off of the pain.
- Wearing loose clothing, especially in areas where you might have increased sensitivity, can also help limit the likelihood of experiencing additional discomfort.
For those with severe pain or postherpetic neuralgia a complication from shingles that can cause long-term painthese coping strategies might not be enough. In those instances, healthcare providers might recommend using medications such as gabapentin or pregabalin to manage the pain.
Who Is At Risk For Postherpetic Neuralgia
A case of Shingles is one thing, but postherpetic neuralgia is yet another matter entirely. Shingles pain can be combatted by treating the condition with antiviral medication and topical painkillers. For most people, the pain goes away with the infection.
Yet when the pain persists long after the rashes have gone, its a sign that a person may be suffering from postherpetic neuralgia .
The same rules apply the weaker your immune system, the greater the risk of postherpetic neuralgia. It doesnt have to be a matter of age. Certain illnesses can weaken your immune system. Procedures such as a recent organ transplant can take a toll on your body and force you to take immunosuppressant drugs to minimize the chance of transplant rejection.
There are unknown factors, too. Some people get postherpetic neuralgia others dont.
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Suffering From Shingles Pain We Can Help
Roughly one in three people experiences shingles during their lifetime. Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox: the varicella-zoster virus. Chickenpox is generally milder and affects children, while shingles in adults may cause a large, blistering rash and ongoing nerve pain.
If youve ever had chickenpox, the virus remains in your nerve cells forever. It can reactivate years later in the form of shingles. But having had chickenpox doesnt guarantee youll get shingles.
Shingles isnt contagious or life-threatening, but its often very painful. It causes oozing blisters on your skin. The patches can develop anywhere on your body, and they may cause intense pain that makes daily life challenging.
At Ohio Pain Clinic, you can find relief from shingles pain and a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia . Amol Soin, MD and our team offer a range of treatments to relieve lingering PHN pain and help you live more comfortably.
Spinal Cord Or Peripheral Nerve Stimulation
These are often used to treat several different types of neuropathic pain. Electrodes are placed underneath the skin along the affected peripheral nerves. Before using this technique, doctors will do a test using a wire electrode to get a sense of how the patient will respond.
After the electrodes have been placed above the peripheral nerve, a weak electrical current is sent to the nerve. By stimulating a sensory pathway that doesnt cause pain, experts believe that this electrical signal to the brain can trick the brain into turning off the painful signal, bringing relief to the patient.
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How Is Shingles Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will do a complete physical exam and ask about your medical history, specifically about whether you have ever had chickenpox.
Your healthcare provider will likely know right away that it is shingles based on the unique rash. The rash usually appears one area on one side of the body or face. It appears as red spots, small fluid- or pus-filled vesicles, or scabs.
The healthcare provider may also take skin scrapings for testing.
Soak In A Colloidal Oatmeal Bath
This DYI option hasnt been tested for shingles specifically but experts say it may provide some skin relief while your rash is still acting up. Colloidal oatmeal is made by grinding oats into a fine powder . A study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that this natural remedy has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can make it helpful in treating irritated skin. Add colloidal oatmeal to a bath of cool or lukewarm water and soak for about 10 minutes, once per day, for as long as your rash lasts.
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What Causes Postherpetic Neuralgia
Postherpetic neuralgia begins when the virus that causes chickenpox affects an individual. After having chickenpox, the virus remains in the body forever. The virus can reactivate, usually decades later, and produce shingles lesions. The reactivation of the virus is thought to be due to stress on the body from either another infection or if the patients immune system is compromised that allows the virus to escape the nerve cells.
The nerve fibers damaged from the chickenpox virus are unable to transmit normal sensation messages from the skin to the brain. Instead, the sensation messages become confused and exaggerated, causing chronic, often excruciating, pain that can last months or even years. However, postherpetic neuralgia does not occur in everyone who suffers from shingles.
Foods To Avoid When Suffering From Shingles
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Shingles is no fun at all for adults its caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox, which can become dormant for years and reappear as this painful nerve condition. Those with shingles develop a very painful and itchy rash that can last for weeks or months.
There are some treatments available for shingles, and even vaccines to help prevent it, but one thing you can do to alleviate some of the symptoms is to change your diet. The best way to help relieve shingles and help speed up the recovery process is to avoid these 6 foods
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