Post herpetic neuralgia is nerve pain that is caused by nerve damage from an episode of shingles. It may be mild or severe, and it can be very difficult to treat, in some cases the pain will last for months.
Similar to the pain of neuropathy, the pain of postherpetic neuralgia comes from within the nerve itself.
It is like a short circuit, or malfunction inside of the nerve, that causes it to continually send the pain signal without any stimulus to cause pain.
like a short circuit
Patients report a wide range of sensations that this can cause.
Some people tell of itching, or mild tingling, or numbness that is only annoying.Others describe a moderately painful needles and pins feeling.
severe pain or hypersensitivity
Some people complain of severe pain with a cold burning kind of character or a hypersensitivity to light touch that causes pain with wearing clothes or the pressure of bed sheets.
The chickenpox virus lives
inside of the nerves.
Image thanks to Renee Gordon via Wikimedia Commons
The risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia increases with age. In many cases the pain seems to be more severe following shingles that have occurred on the face, perhaps because that area is highly sensitive to begin with.
•Topical treatments that you can apply to the skin
•Anticonvulsant & Antidepressant drugs that affect the nerves
•Narcotic medications that control pain
Lidocaine ointment or patches can be applied directly to unbroken skin. This can relieve pain by numbing the area where it is applied.
Capsaicin cream is available without a prescription in drugstores. This cream is made with an extract from Chile peppers that stimulates the nerve and blocks the pain signal. Over the counter dosages are very low and a higher concentration dose is available from your doctor. Unfortunately, this treatment can sometimes cause a burning sensation that some people find more painful than their initial pain.
Anticonvulsant and Antidepressant Medications
These two groups of medications can be helpful because they work on the nerves.
Anticonvulsants such as Lyrica or Gabapentin help relieve pain by stabilizing the nerve membranes. Antidepressants such as Cymbalta and Effexor help to control pain by making changes in the chemicals in your brain.
Some possible side effects include drowsiness, lightheadedness and unclear thinking.
Narcotic medications tend to be less effective for nerve pain and in some cases they may not relieve pain at all.
In spite of that, when you have severe pain medications like Oxycodone or Hydrocodone may be worth a trial.This group of medications may also cause constipation, drowsiness and confusion. There is also a risk of addiction with people who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
If your pain is less severe Tramadol is a non-narcotic medication that may provide some relief.
All medications and treatments for pain can have side effects. In most cases the risks are very limited but you should always discuss any new treatments that you are considering with your doctor. He can advise you on how these risks relate to you personally.