The condition of persistent pain in the body, where an outbreak of the Varicella Zoster virus has caused Shingles, is termed as post-herpetic neuralgia. It is a debilitating complication of the herpes zoster virus. The blisters that occur in shingles develop a crust formation and neuralgia begins after these crusts are formed. It may also occur in people who do not produce the crustaceous lesions. A burning pain that is long-lasting, even after the rash and the blisters disappear, is observed. There is a criteria of the pain to be persistent for around three months for the confirmation of post herpetic neuralgia.
The cause of this condition is damage of the sensory nerves that can occur due to the movement of the reactivated Herpes Zoster virus from the nerves to the skin. In an individual affected with chickenpox, the infection can involve dorsal root ganglia, where the virus lies dormant. Under conditions like stress due to infection or in an immuno-compromised individual, after a period of time, reactivation of the virus takes place. This reactivation causes production of Shingles on the body. The dormant virus reaches the skin and reactivates to produce lesions.
With an increase in age, the chances of developing post-herpetic neuralgia also increase. It primarily affects older individuals in the age group of 60 to 70 years. Treatment is aimed at pain management and providing symptomatic relief, with improvement of the neuralgia over a period of time. Symptoms of this condition are limited to the area of shingles’ outbreak. Trunk is commonly affected on a unilateral site. It can also occur on face. Common symptoms include pain lasting 3 months or longer after healing of the shingles rash, allodynia, numbness over the affected area and itching. Even a slight touch of cloth over the affected area can cause alleviated pain to the individual. Disturbed sleep and development of clinical depression is usually associated with post herpetic neuralgia. The medications given for post herpetic neuralgia are aimed at pain relief and resolving of symptoms. Management of chronic pain can be brought about by the use of a combination of pain relieving drug classes.
Some commonly used drugs for treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia are as follows:
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