Post herpetic neuralgia is the lasting skin and nerve pain associated with a shingles outbreak. The threat of developing this pain condition is often the biggest worry for those who have a shingles outbreak. The most common symptom of post herpetic neuralgia is a burning pain that may interfere with sleep and appetite. Other common symptoms include itching or numbness, muscle weakness or paralysis and sensitivity to any touch.
Patients who seek treatment within the first 72 hours of the rash appearance and start a course of antivirals are 50 percent less likely to develop post herpetic neuralgia. This type of pain occurs when nerve are damaged by a shingles outbreak and no longer communicate properly with the brain. The location of the pain is usually the same as the place on the body where the shingles outbreak originally occurred.
A physician will collect a medical history from the patient. Since there is not a specific test or cure for this condition, a variety of pain medications and treatments may be suggested until the patient and physician find the best possible combination. Treatments may include anticonvulsants, antidepressants, pain medication in patch form, topical creams or opiate pain medications.
Both shingles and the associated post herpetic neuralgia can be prevented in older adults with a vaccine. Called Zostavax, a clinical trial run by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that this vaccine reduced patients’ risk for shingles by about half. In the trial, the risk for post herpetic neuralgia was reduced by 67%. This vaccine is projected to last about six years.