Contact Us  |  Search: 
Printer Friendly VersionEmail A FriendAdd ThisIncrease Text SizeDecrease Text Size

Postherpetic neuralgia

 

Definition

Postherpetic neuralgia is pain in the area where a shingles infection once occurred. The pain may last for months or years.

Causes

Postherpetic neuralgia occurs when the nerves have been damaged after an outbreak of shingles. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Postherpetic neuralgia is more likely to occur in people over age 60.

Symptoms

The main symptom is pain in the area where shingles once occurred. The pain can range from mild to very severe. It lasts for months, sometimes years, after the original shingles infection.

Treatments

Anticonvulsant drugs, usually used for seizures, may help with the pain of damaged nerves. Gabapentin and pregabalin are the ones most commonly used to treat postherpetic neuralgia.

Skin patches with lidocaine (a numbing medicine) may also be prescribed to relieve some of the pain for a period of time.

Pain medications are often needed. Sometimes acetaminophen or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen are enough. Many patients will need stronger, prescription drugs such as codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone.

Drugs used to treat depression (antidepressants) may also help reduce pain, as well as help with sleep.

Electrical nerve stimulators may be used for severe, long-term cases of postherpetic neuralgia.

Consultation with a pain specialist may be necessary in some cases.

References

Sampathkumar P, Drage LA, Martin DP. Herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia. Mayo Clin Proc. 2009 Mar;84(3):274-80. Review.


Review Date: 6/10/2009
Reviewed By: Reviewed by Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
MAIMONIDES
MEDICAL CENTER


Home Page
Why Choose Us
Donations
Website Terms of Use
PATIENT
INFORMATION


Visitor & Patient Info
We Speak Your Language
Patient Privacy
Contact Us
KEY
INFORMATION


Find a Physician
Medical Services
Maimonides In the News
Directions & Parking
FOR HEALTH
PROFESSIONALS


Medical Education
Career Opportunities
Nurses & Physicians
Staff Intranet Access

Maimonides Medical Center    |    4802 Tenth Avenue    |    Brooklyn, NY 11219    |    718.283.6000