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Postherpetic Neuralgia

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Find relief from Postherpetic Neuralgia symptoms with Los Angeles Pain Specialist.

Postherpetic neuralgia is a type of chronic pain that can develop as a complication of the shingles virus. The condition is most common in the elderly and those with a compromised immune system. There is no specific cure for postherpetic neuralgia, but certain treatments can help manage the pain.

  • There is no specific cure, but treatments can help manage the pain
  • Symptoms and recent medical history are enough for a diagnosis


Causes of Postherpetic Neuralgia

Shingles, which is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, can damage nerve fibers. The messages from those nerve fibers can become exaggerated or scrambled so that they are interpreted by the brain as pain. The neuralgia typically develops along the same area as the shingles rash and can last for months or even years.

Symptoms of Postherpetic Neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia is characterized by a burning sensation or a sharp, jabbing, or aching pain that lasts for more than three months after the shingles rash has resolved. In some cases, the pain is so severe that patients cannot even stand a gentle touch or the weight of clothing on the affected area. Although less common, postherpetic neuralgia can also cause itching and numbness. Since the neuralgia affects the same nerves as the shingles virus, the pain will typically be limited to one side of the body.

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Treating Postherpetic Neuralgia

Most patients find that a combination of treatments provides the most effective relief from postherpetic neuralgia.

  • Small patches similar to a band-aid that contain a topical analgesic called lidocaine can be applied to the affected area for temporary relief.
  • A skin patch containing capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, can provide pain relief for up to three months in some patients. The patch must be applied by a medical professional, and the process can take a couple of hours.
  • Gabapentin and pregabalin, normally used to treat seizures, can help regulate the electrical activity in the nerves and reduce pain.
  • Nortriptyline, venlafaxine, and duloxetine, normally used to treat depression, can help alter brain chemistry and how the brain interprets pain signals.
  • In extreme cases, a doctor may prescribe an opioid painkiller. These medications should only be used for the shortest time possible and according to the doctor’s instructions because of the risk of side effects and addiction.

A vaccine is available that can significantly reduce the risk of developing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia.

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