For around one million American adults each year, chickenpox returns in a new form: shingles. The shingles rash, unlike chickenpox, is limited to the area of skin that’s assigned to the infected nerve. The rash is typically small bumps that turn into painful blisters. The pain of shingles can be extreme and symptoms may last for a few weeks. Sometimes, the pain does not end when the rash does. This is called Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN), a form of neuropathic pain that can last for months or years.
In around 10%-20% of shingles sufferers, the pain of shingles continues to hang on long after the rash is gone. In individuals who suffer from PHN, the pain of shingles never leaves, resolves and comes back, or never goes away completely.
PHN occurs in the area in which the shingles occurred and the pain can be intermittent or constant. The pain of PHN can interfere with daily activities, such as exercise, sleep, and sexual desire. Irritability and depression are common as well in individuals who cannot control their pain. The pain associated with PHN is thought to be due to residual damage or inflammation in the nerve(s) after shingles resolves.
The risk of PHN tends to go up with age, as the majority of cases occur in individuals over 50 years old. Experts believe this coincides with the natural decline of immunity that comes with increased age. Race seems to be a factor, as well. In studies, white Americans were shown to get shingles and PHN at more than twice the rate of African Americans in their age bracket. Additionally, those with impaired immune systems due to drugs or diseases are more prone to PHN.
Treatment of PHN aims to soothe and quiet the misfiring nerves that are creating the pain. For a comprehensive analysis of your condition, contact the office of Dr. Peter Carney at 574-389-7737 or online. The doctor will be able to present to you a treatment plan to help ease the pain associated with Postherpetic Neuralgia.