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Post Herpetic Neuralgia or 'PHN' is an outbreak of the herpes zoster virus (shingles). Shingles is a red rash that blisters and leaves bumps on the skin which can be very painful. Post Herpetic Neuralgia is a second outbreak of the varicella zoster virus and can affect the body by causing extreme pain without actually having the shingles blisters. Shingles itself is a virus which comes from the chickenpox virus. If someone has had the chickenpox as a child, as most people have, then the virus can resurface. .
Chickenpox never leaves the cells; it can appear as shingles later in life as the cells can let the virus escape due to old age, or having an immune deficiency system problem. PHN causes pain to the nerve fibers in the skin and can last for a long time after a shingles outbreak has left the body. PHN can cause the body to be very sensitive to the slightest touch and cause extreme pain.
How does a person know they have PHN?
If a person has had shingles before, they will know that the pain lasts anywhere from 1-3 months after the shingles have healed and gone away. Some people experience permanent scarring and discoloration to the skin as a result of severe cases of shingles. PHN also called the varicella-zoster virus occurs in the skin and it can severely damage nerve cells and cause the brain to receive nerve messages as pain. Some will experience severe pain due to touch, change in temperature, and wind. Even putting on clothes can bring a person to experience unbearable pain all over. A doctor will be able to tell you for sure if you have post herpetic neuralgia.
Who gets PHN?
Anyone who has had chickenpox in their lifetime can get shingles and if the shingles are bad enough or even in random cases a person can develop Post Herpetic Neuralgia. It is estimated about 1 in 5 people will develop post herpetic neuralgia in their life. Most of these people will be of an older age or have had been diagnosed with some sort of immune deficiency virus such as AIDS. Not everyone will get shingles, and not everyone will go through the pain of having PHN. Post herpetic neuralgia can last anywhere from months to years. Many people over 60 will experience the varicella-zoster virus. Keep in mind there is no cure for post herpetic neuralgia, you cannot fix the damaged nerve endings but there are ways to manage the outbreaks and pain of the virus.
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