What Is Postherpetic Neuralgia?
After having chickenpox, it is possible to develop a painful condition called Postherpetic Neuralgia. This occurs when traces of the chickenpox virus remains in your system, lying dormant in your nerve cells. Factors such as old age, illness, stress and medications can play a roll in the reactivation of the virus, causing shingles (also known as herpes zoster). Sometimes the virus will reactivate for no obvious reason.
After the virus is reactivated, it travels through the nerve fibers, causing you pain. Once it reaches the skin, you may notice rashes and blisters appear. Most of the time, they will heal within a months time. A lot of times, people still feel pain in the areas where the blisters and rashes were (that pain being Postherpetic Neuralgia). But not everyone who's had the chickenpox virus reactivated will develop this condition.
Mainly older adults are diagnosed with shingles, so the greater your age when the virus reactivates, the more prone you are to developing Postherpetic Neuralgia due to shingles. When treated early and over a period of time, the pain of Postherpetic Neuralgia lessens. The pain it causes can range from mild to unbearable, usually a resembling a burning sensation.
What are the causes of Postherpetic Neuralgia?
The following are some of the causes of Postherpetic Neuralgia:
- Being a female
- Older age
- Symptoms such as numbness, tingling, itching and pain that is present before the rash appears
- A severe rash
- Extreme pain during initial stages of the sickness
Sometimes stress can play a part in the development. Many of the people that have developed Postherpetic Neuralgia were found to have had symptoms such as
- Personality disorders
- Other bodily symptoms
How You can Tell if You Have Postherpetic Neuralgia
A lot of times, the symptoms of Postherpetic Neuralgia occur in the same areas of the previous shingles outbreak. You may endure the following signs:
- Sharp, burning or jabbing pains
- Skin sensitive to touch and change in temperature
Sometimes, your muscles will become weak or even enter into paralysis.
How Postherpetic Neuralgia can be Treated
There are various ways that Postherpetic Neuralgia can be treated such as the following:
- Antidepressants - You seem depressed or stressed, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants to help balance the chemicals in your brain (norepinephrine and serotonin) that plays a role in how your body interprets pain.
- Lidocaine Skin Patches - These patches are prescribed to (similar to a bandage) temporarily relieve pain in topical areas of your skin.
- Injected Steroids -- When injected in the spinal cord with corticosteroid medications, it can help relive the pain of Postherpetic Neuralgia.
- Painkillers - Prescription strength painkillers, like tramadol or oxycodone are needed to help reduce and control the pain.
Many other treatments are also available.
Prevention of Postherpetic Neuralgia
The FDA has approved a vaccine that may help prevent shingles or make it less painful when you are diagnosed with the illness. This shingles vaccine is known as Zostavax and is recommended for adults over the age of 60. Zostavax hasn't been studied on individuals who have already had shingles and it is unknown if it is able to prevent shingles from reoccurring.
If you haven't already had the chickenpox virus, you can avoid getting it with the varicella vaccine. It also helps to keep out of contact with those who have had shingles or the chickenpox.
When to See a Doctor
If you notice any of the following symptoms, it is highly recommended to be seen by a doctor.
- Pain, rashes, blisters or other skin sores
- Headaches, stiff neck or dizziness
- Change in vision
- Unable to move muscles in your face or develop pain in your face