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Post-herpetic neuralgia: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About post-herpetic neuralgia

Post-herpetic neuralgia is a complication of ‘Shingles’, which is a rash caused by chicken pox virus, also called the Varicella Zoster virus. The virus of ‘Shingles’, remains in the affected nerves and may re-activate later in some people.

Post-herpetic neuralgia: Incidence, age and sex

Post-herpetic neuralgia occurs in 15-20% of the patients, who have suffered from ‘Shingles’. It is commonly seen in individuals of 50-60 years of age. Its incidence is more in women as compared to men. The nerves commonly affected, are those of the head and the neck region.

Signs and symptoms of post-herpetic neuralgia: Diagnosis

The primary clinical features of post-herpetic neuralgia include pain and burning. There may be tingling or numbness. If there is involvement of the head and neck nerves, then the individual may complain of facial pain. The affected individual may be unable to eat or drink. They may have difficulty in chewing or in speaking. Some individuals may experience a sharp shooting pain off and on.

The diagnosis of post-herpetic neuralgia is easily established by an experienced physician. The history which will reveal past exposure to zoster virus, along with the present symptoms may lead to the diagnosis. There is no specific test for diagnosis of post-herpetic neuralgia.

Causes and prevention of post-herpetic neuralgia

The causative organism of post-herpetic neuralgia is varicella zoster virus. This virus after causing chicken pox in an individual, remains dormant in the nerve bed for years. When the same individual is under stress or his immunity is low, the virus may get re-activated and cause ‘Shingles’. This leads to rashes along the course of the nerve. The areas affected more commonly are the head and neck region or lower back region. Pain and burning may still remain along the nerves, even after the disappearance of the rash. Post-herpetic neuralgia may be prevented by reducing stress and maintaining good immunity.

Post-herpetic neuralgia: Complications

Post herpetic neuralgia causes lot of pain and discomfort which affects the daily routine of the patient. The patient is unable to eat, talk, laugh, or do any facial activity. This might affect his nutrition and social relationship.

Post-herpetic neuralgia: Treatment

Post-herpetic neuralgia is a viral disorder which can be treated by antiviral drugs such as Acyclovir. Symptomatic treatment including pain-killer medications may be given for temporary relief. If all these conservative treatment do not help, then surgery for the nerve block is the final resort.