Shingles & Postherpetic Neuralgia

Home > Treatment Articles > Shingles Articles > Shingles & Postherpetic Neuralgia

Both shingles (known as Herpes Zoster) and postherpetic neuralgia more commonly occur in older people. Postherpetic neuralgia is the most common complication of shingles and is unusual in those younger than sixty years. Postherpetic neuralgia is the name given to the pain of shingles continuing long after the rash itself has gone. Approximately twenty percent of people with shingles will then get postherpetic neuralgia which is the name given to pain along the skin's nerves persisting more than thirty days after the original shingles blisters have healed.

Like Shingles, Post Herpetic Neuralgia causes pain, including burning, itching or hypersensitivity, which can be severe. Your skin might react to the changes in temperature or the touch of clothing or bed linen. Most people with postherpetic neuralgia recover in time and the majority will be free of pain within a year. However, a small percentage will suffer from chronic pain.

Shingles itself is caused by the chicken pox virus and therefore, you can only develop shingles if you have previously had chickenpox, or the chickenpox vaccine. The virus can lie dormant in the nervous system for many years and shingles only occurs if the virus is revitalized in a nerve to the skin. Usually, the cause is a weakness in your immune system perhaps through other infections, stress or from being generally run down. Shingles can be a serious threat to those people suffering from an HIV infection or who are being treated for cancer or have even received an organ transplant.

The first sign of shingles is normally a burning or tingling pain in or under the skin. Sometimes there is numbness. You may also feel feverish and suffer from a headache or upset stomach. After several days or sometimes up to two weeks, a rash of small red spots starts to appear on the skin. They quickly turn to blisters (something like chickenpox) and the skin may be red in color. There can be severe pain and sensitivity.

Within about a week, the blisters start to burst and are then covered in a crust or scab. The skin slowly recovers sometimes leaving lighter colored scars. The pain usually disappears with the rash (within three to five weeks) but some people suffer from pain in the same area for many months or even years and it is this latter condition which is called postherpetic neuralgia.

Resources

* www.medinfo.co.uk
* www.familydoctor.org