What can you do about the nerve pain that lingers after shingles goes away?


Quick Answer

Nerve pain that lingers following a case of shingles, known as postherpetic neuralgia, may be treated with lidocaine skin patches, capsaicin skin patches, anticonvulsants, antidepressants and opioid painkillers, as listed by Mayo Clinic. There is no cure for postherpetic neuralgia as of 2015, but most cases improve over time.

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Full Answer

No single treatment option exists to relieve nerve pain in every patient, and many individuals require a combination approach for greatest relief, as stated by Mayo Clinic. Lidocaine skin patches are a prescription-only treatment option containing a topical pain-relieving medication, and they can be cut into the shape of the affected area. Capsaicin skin patches contain a high concentration of chili pepper extract and are only applied in the doctor's office by a trained professional. Although the process takes two hours or more, the treatment relieves nerve pain for up to three months in some patients. Individuals may also choose an over-the-counter cream with a lower concentration of capsaicin.

Certain anticonvulsants relieve pain caused by postherpetic neuralgia by stabilizing electrical activity in the nervous system resulting from damaged nerves, but side effects can include clouded thinking, unsteadiness and drowsiness, according to Mayo Clinic. Some antidepressants, such as venlafaxine, duloxetine and nortriptyline, relieve nerve pain by affecting how the brain interprets pain, and postherpetic neuralgia patients generally receive smaller doses than those required for depression. Prescription-strength painkillers, such as morphine and tramadol, may also be effective in relieving nerve pain.

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