The varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox in children. Even after recovery, the virus lies dormant in your system and can resurface as shingles in adults. It typically reappears in a painful rash when someone experiences an impaired immune system or is under excessive mental and emotional stress.
Postherpetic neuralgia is a painful complication of shingles. Patients who are at an increased risk for postherpetic neuralgia include:
- patients over 50 years old
- patients with severe cases of shingles
- patients who do not get appropriate shingles treatments
- patients with comorbidities, chronic conditions, or a chronically suppressed immune system
Postherpetic neuralgia is distinguished from shingles by a more severe, long-lasting pain, without a rash. The virus reaches as deep as the nerves, causing nerve pain, burning, and tingling that can continue for months. Your skin will be sensitive to touch, temperature, and pressure. It often affects your quality of sleep, daily activities such as dressing and bathing, and can be emotionally and mentally wearing. If you suspect you are suffering from postherpetic neuralgia, contact your provider for support and treatment.
Treatments for Postherpetic Neuralgia
There are several different treatment options for postherpetic neuralgia. It may take a few tries to determine the most effective treatment for you. Many patients find that a combination of treatments works better than any one single treatment.
Over-the-counter Pain Management
Doctors often recommend starting with the most conservative treatments and moving to stronger plans as needed. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or Tylenol may be all that is needed for some patients. Other pain-relieving ointments can also help to manage nerve pain.
Prescription-Strength Pain Management
Often patients require a prescription for pain medication. The following classes of medications have been found to be helpful in managing nerve pain:
- anticonvulsants (gabapentin)
- antidepressants (amitriptyline)
- opioids (morphine, tramadol)
- pain patches (lidocaine, capsaicin)
All of these medications carry with them inherent risks and serious side effects. Take them as directed, and wean the dosage as scheduled by your provider.
Patients who participate in physical therapy and an appropriate level of physical activity often experience reduced pain as the inflammation goes down and the healthy muscles and tendons grow stronger.
Some patients require steroid injections for severe pain. Epidurals and nerve blocks have also seen some success in treating postherpetic neuralgia.
One interesting treatment is nerve ablation. There are several different techniques, but they all in effect kill the nerve endings, preventing them from transmitting a pain signal back to the brain. . By aiming a radiofrequency wave at affected nerves, doctors can control where and how much radiation or heat is directed at certain areas. Patients often require several treatments. Nerve ablation treatment for postherpetic neuralgia has seen good success over long-term studies.
If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic pain and you suspect postherpetic neuralgia, contact our team at Best Foot Doctor NY today. We offer state-of-the-art facilities and knowledgeable staff to help you achieve optimal pain relief.