Post Herpetic Neuralgia

Post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is the result of the disease known as shingles, and it occurs when the virus herpes zoster affects the body. Herpes zoster, more commonly known as the chickenpox, will generally clear up within a few days, but when shingles occur due to this virus, it can lead to complications that can last long after the chicken pox, or even the shingles have gone away. There are different symptoms that occur with this condition, and by getting the proper treatment, you can help reduce the amount of pain that is associated with PHN.

Facts about Post Herpetic Neuralgia

  • PHN is most common among those over the age of 60, but has been seen within the younger generation, although more rare.
  • The area that is affected with the shingles plays a huge role in the symptoms that are experienced by the patient.
  • Shingles causing post herpetic neuralgia is most common when the singles occur within the upper regions of the body, especially the face.


PHN most commonly affects the nerves within the skin, especially the nerve fibers, which are the most delicate. When this occurs, it can cause a burning sensation within the skin, and some patients have claimed that the burning can be so intense that it interrupts their daily life and makes sleep difficult. Some people experience shingles in reoccurring episodes after the condition has cleared, and they can cause a lot of pain, and last for a few weeks at a time. Post Herpetic Neuralgia pain is typically located at the same site on the body where the shingles outbreak initially occurred – usually one side of the back, chest, or stomach.
Pain can be sharp or throbbing with post herpetic neuralgia. Some patients have experienced burning, sharp, and throbbing pain at one time. The skin may become itchy and experience a numbing sensation, and in rare cases, weakness can occur in different areas of the body and result in paralysis. Another symptom is a change in sensitivity to touch, and some patients find it difficult to wear clothing without being extremely uncomfortable.

Diagnostic Testing

If you have the first signs of shingles, going to your doctor right away is the best way to ensure you get treatment within a timely manner and reduce the risk of the shingles causing this condition. Your doctor will generally examine the area that is experiencing pain, and may ask you to describe your symptoms to help them determine if your condition is due to PHN. Other than a physical examination, and questions that are associated with the signs of this condition, there are not many additional options.

In some cases, the symptoms of PHN may occur prior to the rash. Having your doctor do a skin or saliva test to look for the virus will allow you to get the earliest treatment possible.


Post herpetic neuralgia is caused directly by the virus that will live within the body after you have chicken pox, and it leads to shingles. While some people are able to fight off the virus rather quickly, others can have difficulty with this, and that is when further complications will take place.


When you see a doctor during the early stages of PHN, a course of strong antibiotics is used to help clear the condition up and prevent further issues. Sometimes, a topical cream will also be applied to the area where the shingles occurred, but this is done only if the rash has already begun.

Due to the intense pain that could be experienced with PHN, patches that contain pain-relieving medication may be prescribed. These patches are applied to the area, and they provide direct pain relief. The use of oral pain medications is also common during an outbreak, and these are used in the form of over the counter drugs, along with prescription narcotic pain medications.

Other forms of treatment include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Steroid injections

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