Postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN, an intense, burning pain that persists after the shingles rash heals, is the most common complication of the condition, explains Mayo Clinic. It affects the skin and nerve fibers and can interfere with sleep, eating and other activities of daily living.Continue Reading
The pain of postherpetic neuralgia is thought to occur due to the inflammation and damage of the nerves in the aftermath of a shingles attack, states WebMD. Aggressive treatment with antiviral agents such as valacyclovir can help treat the rash itself and reduce the risk of PHN, especially when started within three days of the appearance of the rash. If PHN develops once the shingles rash heals, treatment focuses on soothing the irritated nerves. Opioids, tricyclic antidepressants and anticonvulsants may be used to that end. Topical creams containing lidocaine or capsaicin can numb the affected area and also provide pain relief.
Shingles occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox becomes reactivated later in life, according to Dr. Heather Brannon for About.com. People over 60; those with a compromised immune system; anyone experiencing illness, trauma or grief; and people with a history of blood cancers or HIV are most at risk for PHN. In addition, Caucasians are more prone to shingles than other ethnic groups.Learn more about Pain & Symptoms