Understanding Postherpetic Neuralgia

Understanding Postherpetic Neuralgia

Injury and disease can send your nerves into a frenzy. Anything that touches, irritates, pinches, compresses, impinges, or damages them can lead to neuropathy and set off a long list of symptoms, including pain, numbness, weakness, tingling, sensitivity, and even difficulty walking, gripping, or carrying out other daily activities. 

One of the many types of nerve pain we diagnose and treat at Regency Pain & Therapy Institute in Mansfield, Texas, is postherpetic neuralgia. Here, our team of pain management specialists offers a closer look at postherpetic neuralgia and how you can prevent it and find relief from it. 

Shingles: The root cause of postherpetic neuralgia

Chickenpox used to be a very common childhood disease in the United States. It’s a highly contagious disease that causes a blistery rash on the torso and face. Most people born through the early 1990s probably had the virus at some point during their lives, as more than 4 million people came down with it every year in those days.

In 1995, a chickenpox vaccine became available, and since then, the reported cases have dropped by 92%. That means the virus responsible for chickenpox has largely been thwarted, but it still lingers in people who had chickenpox.

Called the varicella zoster virus, it remains dormant in your system, lurking undetected until your immune system is compromised due to age or illness, and it strikes again, but this time in the form of shingles.

The only way to get shingles is from the varicella zoster virus living in you. It’s not passed from person to person, and you can’t get it if you’ve never had chickenpox. You can, however, get chickenpox from a person who has shingles if you’ve never had chickenpox before.

If you get shingles, the painful rash typically appears on your torso in a swath of red blisters that tend to localize along a nerve path. The rash usually lasts around 10 days or so, but even when it subsides, you may not be out of the woods yet.

About one-fifth of people who get shingles go on to develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

Recognizing postherpetic neuralgia

Sometimes, shingles damages the nerves below the rash, leading to long-term effects, namely PHN. Typically, the symptoms of PHN are limited to the area where you had the shingles rash. The most common symptoms include:

If PHN affects a nerve that controls movement, you may experience weakness, mobility issues, or even paralysis.

Preventing and treating PHN

The best way to prevent PHN is to come see us immediately when you get shingles. If we begin treatment within the first two days, studies show it can reduce your pain while the virus is active, shorten the duration of the outbreak, and lower your chances of developing PHN afterward.

To avoid getting shingles and PHN altogether, we recommend the shingles vaccine for people over age 60, whether you’ve had shingles already or not. 

If you already have postherpetic neuralgia, we can still help you. Depending on the severity of your PHN, the location, your symptoms, and your overall health, we may recommend:

Our team specializes in getting to the root cause of your pain and matching you with the most effective treatment. 

To find out more about chickenpox, shingles, postherpetic neuralgia, and your treatment options, schedule an appointment by calling us at 817-435-1642 today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

How Intensive Cardiac Rehab Can Help You Lose Weight

After a heart problem, you need to make some life changes, but it’s not easy to do it alone. That’s why we offer the Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab program. And while it helps improve your heart health, it also helps you lose weight. Here’s how.

Why You Shouldn't Ignore Recurrent Abdominal Pain

Any pain that doesn’t go away and stay away is a red flag. If you have belly pain that keeps coming back, don’t brush it off — it could indicate a serious medical condition. Here’s what it might be and what you can do about it.

5 Important Benefits of a Pain Pump

If you take a pain pill, it has to travel a long way before it gets to the location of your injury. But a pain pump bypasses your digestive tract and goes straight to work. Here’s why that matters.

Can Injections Help My Joint Pain?

When your joints hurt, your whole world comes to a screeching halt. Sometimes, OTC pain relievers can get you moving again, but when they don’t, injections might do the trick. Here’s a look at several joint injections that may ease your pain.