Nerve pain from shingles often dissipates within a few weeks, but in as many as half the patients who develop the disease, the nerve pain continues for months, years or for the rest of their lives, explains WebMD. When nerve pain lasts for more than 30 days after an outbreak, the individual receives a diagnosis of postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN, states MedicineNet. The reason for this long-lasting pain is not clear but may be related to nerve damage or inflammation.
Factors that increase a person's risk of developing PHN include being older; being female; experiencing symptoms such as tingling, itching, pain and numbness prior to the development of the rash; experiencing severe pain in the early stages of the disease; and having a severe rash, according to WebMD. People who take the antiviral drugs famciclovir, valacyclovir or acyclovir two or three days following onset of shingles symptoms are less likely to develop PHN.
Treatments for PHN include oral medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants, strong opioids, Neurontin, Lyrica and Ultram. Topical applications of Zostrix and the Lidoderm patch are also effective, notes WebMD. The Qutenza patch, which contains 8 percent capsaicin, is another treatment option.