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Postherpetic Neuralgia

What is Postherpetic Neuralgia?

Postherpetic neuralgia (post-her-PET-ic noo-RAL-jah) is a painful condition affecting your nerve fibers and skin. Postherpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles.

Not everyone who's had shingles develops postherpetic neuralgia. However, postherpetic neuralgia is a common complication of shingles in older adults. The greater your age when you develop shingles, the greater your risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia.

Postherpetic neuralgia may be debilitating long after signs of the original herpes or shingles infection has disappeared. It becomes more common with increasing age.

What are Shingles?

Shingles are an outbreak of rash or blisters on the skin that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Shingles usually affects the elderly or people with compromised immune function.

What Causes Postherpetic Neuralgia?

Postherpetic neuralgia is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. The varicella-zoster virus is acquired during the primary varicella infection, shingles, or chicken pox.

Symptoms of Postherpetic Neuralgia

The most common symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia are: burning, throbbing, aching, stabbing or shooting pain. The pain usually occurs near the site of the initial episode. The pain often returns sporadically at unknown intervals and is worsened by movement of or contact with the affected area.

Risk factors of Developing Postherpetic Neuralgia

Possible risk factors for the development of postherpetic neuralgia are ophthalmic zoster, a history of prodromal pain before the appearance of skin lesions and an compromised immune system.

Can Postherpetic Neuralgia be Treated?

Yes. However, postherpetic neuralgia is difficult to treat. Some common treatments for postherpetic neuralgia include steroids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and topical agents.

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