Postherpetic neuralgia is a painful condition that strikes people who’ve had shingles. You have about a 20 percent chance of needing post herpetic neuralgia treatment once you’ve had shingles, which is a condition caused by a strain of the herpes virus. When you’re going through an uncomfortable and sometimes painful shingles attack, visit your nerve pain expert at Pain Management NYC to get treatment and find out how you can avoid the need for any new treatments for postherpetic neuralgia. These experts would rather see you before you get it than after when you’re in a lot of pain.
What Is Postherpetic Neuralgia?
The virus that causes chickenpox can flare up later in life and cause shingles, which is characterized by a skin rash that’s blistering and painful. The most common complication of shingles is a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
The term neuralgia refers to pain along a nerve, caused by irritation or damage to the nerve. The term herpetic means related to a virus caused by herpes. Shingles is caused by a varicella-zoster virus, which is in the herpes family of viruses. Postherpetic neuralgia is neuropathic pain that occurs after the rash caused by shingles has cleared up.
This nerve pain can make it difficult to complete ordinary daily activities or participate in things you enjoy. For post herpetic neuralgia treatment or treatment of headaches, back pain and other forms of nerve pain, the best option in the Manhattan area is Pain Management NYC, where you find top-rated doctors and the new treatments for postherpetic neuralgia.
What Are the Symptoms of Postherpetic Neuralgia?
The shingles rash usually affects one side of the body, most commonly the waist, abdomen, chest or back. The area where the outbreak first occurs is the most likely place to be affected by symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia.
Symptoms of PHN may include:
- Stabbing, aching or burning pain
- Pain that increases from just a simple, light touch such as clothing rubbing against the skin
- Itchiness or numbness at the location of the former rash
- Worsening pain from extreme temperature changes
The pain of postherpetic neuralgia may come and go or it may be constant. This pain can last for more than three months after the shingles rash has cleared up, and for some people, the pain lasts for a year or more. The discomfort can seriously disrupt your daily life, causing trouble sleeping, decreased appetite and difficulty concentrating.
What Are the Options for Postherpetic Neuralgia Treatment?
There’s no cure for PHN, but there are some options for treating the symptoms.
A combination of medications may be needed to control the pain of PHN, which may include:
- Non-prescription pain medication. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen or ibuprofen reduce inflammation and discomfort.
- Skin patches. Skin patches containing medication for pain are available both over the counter and by prescription. Lidocaine and capsaicin are the most common types of medication contained in pain patches. Your NYC pain doctor may recommend prescription-strength pain patches to relieve the pain of PHN.
- Antidepressants. Medication used to treat mood disorders can also ease pain by affecting brain chemicals that play a role in how the body interprets pain.
- Anticonvulsants. This type of medication is usually prescribed for seizures but can also calm inflamed nerves and ease neuropathic pain.
- Opioid pain medication. Prescription opioids are usually only prescribed to treat severe pain that isn’t relieved using other methods because opioids have a high risk of triggering addiction.
- Nerve blocks. Your doctor may advise a nerve block to disrupt the nerve carrying the pain signals to your brain.
- Corticosteroid injection. Cortisone shots relieve swelling, pain and inflammation.
New treatments for postherpetic neuralgia continue to be explored. One example is spinal cord stimulation, in which a device is implanted under the skin that administers a weak electrical current to the spinal cord. This form of treatment alters the way the brain senses pain and reduces the need for pain medication. There are also non-medical techniques that can help reduce the intensity of pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy that may help you manage your response to pain.
Some examples of other techniques that may reduce your discomfort include:
- Deep breathing exercises
What Are Risk Factors for Developing Postherpetic Neuralgia?
When you’ve had chickenpox, the virus that causes it stays in your system for life and can become active again at any time. Damage to nerve fibers during a shingles outbreak can cause postherpetic neuralgia. About one out of every five people who have shingles end up experiencing this complication.
Factors that increase the risk of needing post herpetic neuralgia treatment include:
- Severity of shingles. If your shingles outbreak was severe and the discomfort kept you from your normal daily activities, you’re at high risk of developing PHN.
- Age. The chance of developing postherpetic neuralgia increases with age. It’s uncommon to see PHN in people under the age of 50.
- Illness. Having other illnesses such as diabetes can increase your vulnerability for developing shingles complications.
- Compromised immune system. Anything that compromises your immune system such as cancer treatment affects your body’s ability to fight off disease and increases your risk of developing other illnesses such as PHN.
Vaccination offers protection against shingles and complications related to shingles. It’s recommended for people over the age of 50 who have had chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox and haven’t received this vaccination, your risk of developing PHN increases. If you develop a shingles rash, taking antiviral medication within 72 hours after the rash appears aids in preventing complications.
Can Shingles Be Prevented?
The shingles vaccine can prevent both shingles and complications of shingles such as PHN.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends a vaccine called Shingrix for people including:
- Anyone over the age of 50
- Anyone over the age of 19 with a weakened immune system
Shingrix is given in two doses, which are given a few months apart. Shingrix is considered 90 percent effective in protecting against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. If you had the older vaccine known as Zostavax, you should still get the Shingrix vaccine.
When Should I See a Specialist for New Treatments for Postherpetic Neuralgia?
See your pain specialist as soon as you suspect you may have shingles since starting anti-viral medication within 72 hours of getting the shingles rash decreases the risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia. If you develop PHN, the pain may be excruciating and continue for months. For nerve pain treatment, reach out to an experienced pain management doctor as soon as symptoms of PHN develop.
Pain Management NYC is New York City’s most advanced pain management clinic offering the most advanced diagnostic equipment available. A postherpetic neuralgia treatment plan is designed customized to your pain, and the focus is on interventional pain management using minimally invasive treatments and surgeries. Stop your pain and start your healing by contacting Pain Management NYC today for an appointment.
Leon Reyfman, MD, is a top-rated, best-in-class interventional pain management doctor. He is a nationally recognized pain relief specialist and is among the top pain care doctors in New York City and the country. He is an award-winning expert and contributor to prominent media outlets.
Dr. Leon Reyfman has been recognized for his thoughtful, thorough, modern approach to treating chronic pain. He has been named a “top pain management doctor in New York” and one of “America’s Top Doctors™” for advanced sports injury treatments. Among other accolades, he was voted by peers as a “Castle Connolly Top Doctors™” and “New York Super Doctors™”. Dr. Leon Reyfman was a part of the medical team at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.