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Shingles, and postherpetic Neuralgia (nerve damage) and what can be done for relief. 

Treatment for Neuropathy (nerve damage) caused by shingles

What is Shingles?  

The medical term for Shingles is acute herpes zoster.  It is commonly called shingles and  is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Only people who have had chicken pox can get shingles. 

The first time someone is exposed to the virus, it causes the widespread, itchy sores known as chickenpox. After a patient recovers from the chicken pox, the virus remains inactive in the body but the virus never goes away. Instead, it settles in nerve cells and may reactivate years later, causing shingles. 

When the virus is reactivated it begins to multiply within the dorsal root ganglia (a part of the nervous system), which causes damage and swelling to this area of the nerve. This damage to the nerve causes the first pains of shingles. The virus then moves along the nerve to the skin, damaging the nerve and causing swelling as it goes. When the virus finally reaches the skin, it causes the shingles rash.

Shingles appears as a painful skin rash, typically on only one side of the body in a belt-like pattern. (Shingles comes from the Latin word for girdle or belt) The rash is usually on either the right or left side of the chest, starting in the middle of the back and wrapping around to the breast, but it can occur in any part of the body. The rash generally lasts from one to fourteen days.

Most of the time, shingles is very painful. Sometimes the pain from shingles starts  before the rash appears. When the pain starts before the skin rash, it can be very hard to get a correct diagnosis. Many patients have been told they have heart attacks, appendicitis, migraine headaches, etc.  before getting the correct diagnosis of shingles.

Fortunately, in most cases the pain of shingles gradually disappears over several weeks or months. Most people with shingles will have no pain or just a little pain one year after the rash.

Some patients with shingles develop neuralgia (a neuropathy) a condition in which the pain from shingles continues months or years after the rash has faded

What is Postherpetic Neuralgia?

If the pain from shingles does not go away, it is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).  It is also referred to as neuropathy.  It is nerve damage.

A recent study showed that people with neuropathy - nerves of the body that are not working correctly.- are more likely to develop PHN after shingles.   

It is interesting that most people in this study who had a neuropathy before they got shingles did not know they had neuropathy -- they did not have any symptoms. Therefore, having neuropathy, even if it is not causing symptoms, may increase the chances of getting PHN.   Sometimes neuropathy is cumulative. There is some damage but the shingles creates more damage and the symptoms of neuropathy appear.   (for other reasons a person gets neuropathy see Causes of Neuropathy

Pain from Shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia

Patients often describe the pain from shingles as a horrible, unbearable pain in the area of the rash. Each patient may experience different types and degrees of pain. The words used to describe the pain include sharp, electric-like jabs, burning, throbbing, aching, and skin sensitivity.  It is a neuropathy - or nerve damage.   There also may be intense itching in the painful area.  The pain of the neuropathy may spread beyond the original shingles rash.

What can be done about postherpetic neuropathy?

It is known that Infections and autoimmune disorders can cause peripheral neuropathy and shingles is one of them.  These viruses severely damage the sensory nerves. 

Can the Nerve Damage be Reversed? 

For more information about neuropathy and the treatments - go to Neuropathy

 

RELIEF?

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