our Health Index for More Subjects, Conditions and
postherpetic Neuralgia (nerve damage) and what can be
done for relief.
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
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.
People over the age of 50, or those with
weakened immune systems are at the highest risk for
developing shingles. Other factors that increase
your risk include:
- Some cancer
stress or trauma
- A weak immune
system from illnesses
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
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
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
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
Pain from Shingles and
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
What can be done about postherpetic
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?
RECOMMENDED: (This is
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