Post-herpetic neuralgia is pain that continues after a bout of shingles. This pain may last from months to years.
Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles is also called herpes zoster.
Post-herpetic neuralgia can:
Even though there is no cure for post-herpetic neuralgia, there are some ways to treat your pain and discomfort.
You can take a type of medicine called NSAIDs. You do not need a prescription for these.
You may also take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for pain relief. If you have liver disease, talk with your health care provider before using it.
Your health care provider may prescribe narcotics pain relievers. You may be advised to take them:
Narcotics pain relievers can:
Your health care provider may prescribe skin patches that contain lidocaine (a numbing medicine). These may relieve some of your pain for a short period of time.
Zostrix, a cream that contains capsaicin (an extract of pepper), may also reduce your pain.
Two other types of prescription drugs may help reduce your pain. You must take them every day, and they may take several weeks before they begin to help.
Both types of these drugs have side effects. If you have uncomfortable side effects, do NOT stop taking your medicine without talking with your health care provider first. Your provider may change your dose or prescribe a different medicine.
Many non-medical techniques can help you relax and reduce the stress of chronic pain. Some of them are:
A common type of talk therapy for people with chronic pain is called cognitive behavioral therapy. It may help you learn how to cope with and manage your responses to pain.
Call your health care provider if:
Cohen J. Varicella-Zoster virus (chickenpox, shingles). In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia,Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 383.
Warts, herpes simplex, and other viral infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed.St. Louis,Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 12.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.