Shingles is a painful acute disease that occurs in people who have had chicken pox. The virus that causes chicken pox remains dormant in nerve endings, and when a patient experiences a period of weakening of their immune system, the varicella zoster virus, which causes chickenpox can be reactivated. Because nerves typically supply a specific area of the skin called a dermatome, shingles is often diagnosed by the fact that the pain is limited to that particular area supplied by a spinal nerve.
Shingles is extremely painful in many cases, and usually causes a rash, which may be itchy. When a person develop intense stabbing or burning pain, sometimes with scarring in the area affected by shingles, lasting for a month or longer, they may be diagnosed with post-herpetic neuralgia.
Although patients who have post herpetic neuralgia may recover eventually without treatment, they often require prescription medications to control the pain. The nerve affected is irritated and inflamed, this is the source of the pain. A continuous burning sensation is typical, although the pain may be intermittent. There may also be a concurrent sensitivity to touch.
As many as 20% or more of patients with shingles will develop post herpetic neuralgia. The syndrome is associated with increasing age, severity of the episode of shingles, and the occurrence of symptoms before the rash appears with the episode of shingles. Women are more likely to develop post herpetic neuralgia than men.
If you develop shingles, you may reduce your chance of developing post herpetic pain if you receive early anti-viral therapy. If you have shingles and the pain is severe or long lasting, then you should consult a specialist. Particular concern should be paid to any occurrence of shingles on the face and near the eye, as this can result in damage to your vision. If you have are suffering from pain and any of the symptoms mentioned above; you should contact us for evaluation, proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.