Postherpetic 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.
Postherpetic neuralgia can:
Even though there is no cure for postherpetic neuralgia, there are 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 a narcotic pain reliever. You may be advised to take them:
A narcotic pain reliever 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 time. Lidocaine also comes as a cream that can be applied to areas where a patch is not easily applied.
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 of these types of 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 dosage or prescribe a different medicine.
Sometimes, a nerve block can be used to temporarily reduce pain. Your provider will tell you if this is right for you.
Many non-medical techniques can help you relax and reduce the stress of chronic pain, such as:
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. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 383.
Warts, herpes simplex, and other viral infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 12.
Updated by: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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