How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Diagnosed
Postherpetic neuralgia is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms, history of having shingles and physical exam. If youve had a recent case of shingles and have pain in the area where the shingles rash once was, you likely have PHN. Your provider may want to make sure your pain is not caused by something else, but in most cases, no other tests are needed.
Who Is At Risk Of Getting Shingles
Shingles typically affects older people, but it can also occur in healthy younger persons and even in children. Those whose immune systems have been weakened by cancer, HIV infection, AIDS, or treatment with certain medicines are also at increased risk of getting shingles.
- Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of getting shingles later in life. About 1 in 3 people who have not been immunised against chickenpox or shingles will get shingles in their lifetime.
- Shingles usually affects older people. The older you are if you get shingles, the higher your risk of getting serious disease. People who have a weakened immune system are also at risk of getting more severe disease, even if they are young.
- Women have a higher risk of getting shingles than men.
- Most people who develop shingles have only 1 episode during their lifetime. However, you can have shingles more than once.
An attack of shingles during pregnancy will not harm the unborn baby. The mother is already carrying the varicella zoster virus before developing shingles and there is no increase in the risk of passing it on to the fetus if shingles develops. However, an attack of chickenpox during pregnancy can be serious and requires urgent medical attention.
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
Shingrix is given by injection into the upper arm. Shingrix is generally well tolerated. In general, Shingrix is not recommended for: People who are allergic to any component of Shingrix. People with a weakened immune system. People who have a weakened immune system because of:
HIV/AIDS, or- cancer treatments
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What Increases The Risk Of Long
The risk of developing post-herpetic neuralgia increases with age. Four weeks after getting shingles,
- 27% of 55- to 59-year-olds and
- 73% of over 70-year-olds had nerve pain.
Women seem to be more likely to have longer-lasting nerve pain than men. Post-herpetic neuralgia is also more likely to develop if your eyes were affected by shingles.
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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A Word About The Shingles Vaccine
If you are age 60 or over and have not had shingles, talk to your doctor about getting the shingles vaccine. Not only will it reduce your risk of developing shingles, but if you do develop shingles, youll be more likely to have a mild case. And, just as important, youll be much less likely to develop PHN if youve had the vaccine.
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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Antiviral Treatment For Preventing Nerve Pain After Shingles
We reviewed the evidence about the effect of antiviral medicines for preventing postherpetic neuralgia .
PHN is a painful condition that can occur after shingles in the area where the rash occurred. Many people with PHN find that treatments work only a little or not at all. Attention has therefore turned to stopping the development of PHN. Some people suggested that medicines that target the virus that causes shingles , given at the time of the rash, might prevent PHN. The aim of this review was to assess the whether antiviral medicines are able to prevent PHN.
We identified six clinical trials that met our standards for inclusion in the review. They included a total of 1319 participants. We decided that our main measure of whether antiviral medicines work in preventing PHN would be whether or not PHN had developed six months after a first attack of shingles .
Key results and quality of the evidence
The evidence is current to April 2013, when the searches were last updated. Because new evidence on this topic is slow to emerge, we have scheduled the next update of this review for 2017.
I Think I Have Shingles What Should I Do
Repeat after me: Call your doctor right away, within 72 hours. The earlier the better.
You should start taking an antiviral medication, preferably valacyclovir or famciclovir, within 72 hours of your symptoms starting to help reduce the severity of the infection, how long your skin rash lasts, and how painful it gets. If its been more than 72 hours, you should still talk to your provider. Treatment can still help, especially if you still see new rashes showing up.
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Key Points About Shingles
- Shingles is a common viral infection of the nerves. It causes a painful rash or small blisters on an area of skin.
- Shingles is caused when the chickenpox virus is reactivated.
- It is more common in people with weakened immune systems, and in people over the age of 50.
- Shingles starts with skin sensitivity, tingling, itching, and/or pain followed by rash that looks like small, red spots that turn into blisters.
- The rash is typically affects just one area on one side of the body or face.
- Treatment that is started as soon as possible helps reduce the severity of the disease.
Coping With Shingles Pain
If you have shingles, you may be wondering how to cope with the pain:
- Be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet to help boost your immune system.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing with natural fiber .
- Establish or maintain a regular exercise routine.
- Utilize home remedies to help soothe pain from blisters.
- Engage in activities that help take your mind off of the pain.
- Establish a routine to help manage stress.
- Seek out support when needed from family and friends as well as professional supportive services.
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What Are The Pain Complications Of Shingles
Pain, itching, and tingling may continue for several months after the rash healing. At the same time, the pain that remains after the rash has healed may be the most severe complication of shingles. Itching, burning, and pain along the nerves that affect the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat can cause temporary and permanent problems.
Nerve Blocks For Shingles Pain
The same virus responsible for chicken pox during childhood causes shingles pain as an adult. The virus becomes active in nerve tissue causing severe pain usually on one side of the body. This occurs more frequently in people older than 60, but can occur in younger individuals. Shingles usually presents in sharp pain followed by a rash. The more likely areas to be affected include the chest or abdomen, and less frequently, the face, the arms, or the legs.
Reasons for treatment
A shingles infection causes a very severe nerve inflammation that if left untreated can evolve into a more severe form of the disease called post-herpetic neuralgia. This disease is a complication of shingles where nerves and their blood supply have been severely damaged from inflammation. Typically. the older you are and the more pain you have during your shingles episode, the more likely it is for you to develop permanent pain. Blocking the pain in the affected nerves using strong numbing medicines and anti-inflammatories will shorten the actual shingles pain and may decrease the chance of developing severe nerve damage and chronic pain.
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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.
When Should I See My Doctor
See your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms of shingles. Starting treatment with antiviral medicines within 3 days of the rash appearing should reduce the severity of symptoms and the risk of further complications, including post-herpetic neuralgia.
See your doctor straight away if you have symptoms of shingles and are experiencing the following:
- symptoms that affect your eye area
- a temperature of 38°C or higher
You should also see your doctor if you are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system due to medicine that suppresses the immune system, or a condition that weakens your immune system.
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What Is Postherpetic Neuralgia
Postherpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles infection . Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash and other symptoms. The rash most commonly occurs in a band pattern on one side of your body, usually on your trunk . The rash turns into blisters. As the rash/blisters go away, pain may remain. When pain remains, the condition is called postherpetic neuralgia.
Are There Treatments I Can Put On My Skin
You might find relief with topical treatments. You can talk to your doctor about:
Creams: Some of these contain capsaicin, the ingredient in cayenne pepper that gives it a kick. Examples are Capsin and Zostrix. You can buy this over the counter but make sure your doctor knows if you plan on using these.
Patches: Capsaicin is also in Qutenza, which is applied via a patch for one hour every 3 months. You need to visit the doctorâs office for this.
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The 5 False Facts Your Doctor Mistakenly Promotes What To Do About Shingles Nerve Pain
The medical community is largely responsible for this misinformation being passed on to the suffering patient. In my view it is the job and responsibility of the family doctor to teach the patient about their neuropathy problem. It is also the doctors job to train the patient in what they can do to improve and manage their neuropathy case successfully.
Many neuropathy patients, suffering with foot or hand pain, tingling, numbness, burning, and other evasive and hard to describe neuropathy symptoms, dont even know the name of their condition! And while others do, that is essentially all they know. With this in mind I want to address some of the most commonly INCORRECT facts that suffering neuropathy patients have been told, or come to understand, due to the lack of patient education by the medical community.
1. Neuropathy comes with age, and there is nothing you can do about it.This statement is only partially correct, inasmuch as aging can contribute to the increased onset and intensity of the neuropathy condition. There are however, many simple techniques and procedures that any person can learn which will offset many of these effects of aging as they relate to peripheral neuropathy.
4. Neuropathy just gets worse with time, and you have to accept that you are stuck with it.
What Can You Do To Prevent Shingles
While you may not be able to control certain factors that might trigger shingles, there are strategies you can use to prevent shingles. The most important is vaccination. Research shows that the shingles vaccine Shingrix is 90% effective in preventing an outbreak of shingles. Even if you do get shingles after being vaccinated, Shingrix greatly reduces your risk of developing persistent pain in the affected area, known as post-herpetic neuralgia.
In addition to getting vaccinated, its always a good idea to take steps to keep your body healthy, such as choosing healthy foods, staying active, and getting sufficient sleep. Its not clear if healthy lifestyle habits like these can prevent shingles, but even if they dont, theyre worthwhile because they will benefit your body in many other ways.
About the Author
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How To Treat Nerve Pain Caused By Shingles
This article was medically reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support , Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support , Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Tennessee in 2006.There are 31 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 84% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 88,320 times.
How Is Shingles Prevented
The best protection against shingles is vaccination. Chickenpox vaccine should prevent you from getting the virus, and so decrease the risk of both chickenpox and shingles. Shingles vaccine reduces the risk of getting shingles and its complications you may still get shingles, but the symptoms are usually less severe and post-herpetic neuralgia is less likely. In New Zealand there are 2 brands of vaccines that protect against shingles Shingrix and Zostavax. These vaccines differ in the way they work, their cost and how they are given. Read more about the differences between Shingrix and Zostavax.
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Shingles Symptoms Before Rash
Shingles develops in two stages. The first is called the prodromal period.
Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella virus, which is what causes chickenpox. After an initial infection, the virus lays dormant in the body. Once reactivated, which can happen years down the line, shingles results.
Often, the earliest signs this is occurring are similar to what youd expect at the start of any infection. These symptoms sometimes occur at times when youre feeling stressed or run down. They are also systemic, meaning they affect the whole body.
You may assume youre just overtired or coming down with a cold when you actually have shingles.
Treatment Of Pain After Shingles
Treatment for people with PHN may include:
- Nerve blocks: Local anesthetic or alcohol injected directly into the nerve affected
- Thoracic epidural injections: Local injection in the space around the spinal cord
- Antidepressant medications: Such as amitriptyline
- Membrane stabilizers: Such as gabapentin
- Capsaicinapplication: Topical cream applied to the affected area
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The Details: Heres Where Postherpetic Neuralgia Gets Complicated
Postherpetic Neuralgia Causes
To help you understand how shingles can cause PHN, you need to know how you can get shingles. Shingles is caused by a viral infection called herpes zoster. The virus that causes herpes zoster is called the varicella-zoster virus, and it is the same virus that causes chicken pox in childhood. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus can enter the nervous system and remain dormant for many years. In some people, the virus will reactivate years later and produce shingles.4
Researchers arent exactly sure what triggers the herpes zoster virus to re-emerge after all those years, but they think it is related to age, illness, and stress.3 Shingles can be very painful, and when the virus reaches the skin, it can cause blistery rashes. These rashes usually heal in less than 3 months.
And this chain of events can lead to PHN. If the pain of shingles lingers longer than 3 months, you may have PHN.
During your bout with shingles, the virus you were fighting injured nerves in and around the skin where the rash and blisters once existed. As your immune system eventually suppressed the virus, your rash and blisters disappeared. You may have even felt less pain, and you assumed that you had won the battle with shingles.
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