Are you suffering from postherpetic neuralgia or having similar symptoms related to it? Well, here in this article, we will give you detailed information on what is postherpetic neuralgia?
What Is Postherpetic Neuralgia?
Postherpetic Neuralgia is the complication of shingles. Shingles are the complication of chickenpox. Postherpetic Neuralgia is an excruciating medical condition, and it affects the skin and nerve fiber. The pain that one experiences even after the shingle is cured is known as the Postherpetic Neuralgia.
According to the statistics, it has been reported that 1 out of every five patients who are suffering from shingles will have the probability of going through Postherpetic Neuralgia. When the nerve faces any damage or irritation which alters the neurological function or structure of it, then Postherpetic Neuralgia occurs.
One might feel an intense stabbing or burning sensation arising from the affected nerves. This pain will initiate from the nervous system, and any other outside stimulus is not responsible for this pain. It is also commonly known as a trapped nerve or a pinched nerve. These painful signals are sent by the nerve, which is facing irritation or is faulty.
Shingle is a blistering and painful skin rash that is caused by varicella-zoster. During adolescence or childhood, this virus has a higher probability of attacking you in the form of chickenpox. If the virus remains dormant in the nerves of the body even after childhood and suddenly reactivates, then it will cause this condition. So now you know What is post-herpetic neuralgia?
Who Has Higher Chances Of Getting Postherpetic Neuralgia?
Not everyone who experiences shingles will go through postherpetic neuralgia. Several factors contribute to the chances or the risk factor of getting postherpetic neuralgia. Some of them are discussed in detail below.
Women have higher chances of getting postherpetic neuralgia than men.
If your age is more than 60 years or is between 50 to 59 and your medical condition is weakening the immune system, then you have higher chances of getting Postherpetic Neuralgia.
People who are suffering from health conditions that affect the immune system like cancer or HIV are having high chances of suffering from postherpetic neuralgia.
A person who experiences severe pain at the onset of the outbreak will have higher chances of getting neuralgia.
Itching, tingling, and numbness before the appearance of shingles rash lead to lingering pain in the later stages.
Causes Of Postherpetic Neuralgia
How an infection leads to postherpetic neuralgia is described in three steps mentioned below:
- Step 1: Varicella-zoster is the root virus behind postherpetic neuralgia. When this virus attacks a human body, they start experiencing itchy outbreaks, which are similar to that of chickenpox. After the condition is healed, the virus will remain in your nervous system and stay there for several decades.
- Step 2: Several years later, the virus can reawaken and start showing its symptoms on your skin. One can expect the outbreak of lesions on their face or torso, and it will generally appear on one side of your body. This condition is also known as shingles, and the reason behind the reactivation of the virus has not been found yet.
- Step 3: In several cases, shingles make the nerve fiber damaged by causing inflammation. These nerve fibers won’t be able to send the message signals from the skin to the brain. As the signal gets scrambled so it can trigger a chronic pain, which can become very severe if not treated immediately. The region where the rash will appear will start paining, and if the condition remains the same for a year, then it will permanently stay there.
According to the theories of the expert, it has been said that shingles are responsible for creating scar tissue next to the nerves. This will, in turn, create pressure and make the nerve send some inaccurate signals, which are more like pain signals to your brain. The pain that you will experience will be chronic with burning and throbbing sensation.
Symptoms Of Postherpetic Neuralgia
Shingles are accompanied by blistering rashes, which are very painful. People who will have postherpetic neuralgia have already experienced shingles before. The signs that you will encounter are:
- One will develop sensitivity towards temperature changes and touch.
- Even with slight pressure, your skin will start experiencing a burning sensation.
- If the pain continues for three months or more after the rash disappears, then it might be a sign of postherpetic neuralgia.
Ways To Diagnose Postherpetic Neuralgia
It is essential to perform some medical tests to diagnose postherpetic neuralgia. The doctor mostly considers the pain symptom and its duration to find the cause.
The primary treatment for postherpetic neuralgia will focus on reducing pain and controlling the condition.
How To Prevent Postherpetic Neuralgia
According to the recommendation of Centres For Disease Control And Prevention, the adults whose age is more than 50 should get Shingrix, which will help in preventing shingles. This vaccine will be provided in two dosages with a gap of 6 months.
If one can take Shingrix, then it will help in preventing shingles or postherpetic neuralgia by 90%. People prefer to opt for Shingrix than Zostavax.
Complications One Will Encounter With Postherpetic Neuralgia
Along with the rashes, you will also face other types of complications if the condition gets severe or lasts for a long time.
- If it appears near your eyes, then you have the risk of losing your vision.
- If it appears near the ear, then you can face balance and hearing problems.
- Weakness in your muscles.
- Facial paralysis
- Inflammation on the brain or encephalitis
How To Treat Postherpetic Neuralgia
The treatment of postherpetic neuralgia will depend on the patient’s neurological, mental, and physical health.
Painkillers are prescribed by the doctors to reduce the pain, but it does come with certain risks.
Near the area of the spinal cord, corticosteroids, medication is injected. The steroid is used after the skin rash completely disappears.
Antidepressants will affect the brain chemicals and interpret the way the body is interpreting the pain.
Lidocaine Skin Patches
Lidocaine is a local antiarrhythmic and anesthetic drug. One can reduce itching, pain, and burning caused by inflammation by applying these patches. You can cut the patches and apply them to the affected area.
One can reduce the pain caused by Postherpetic Neuralgia by using anticonvulsants as they help in effectively calming the nerve impulses and stabilize the abnormal electrical activity. The injured nerves cause this unusual activity in the nervous system.
When To Seek Medical Help?
It is always recommended to seek medical attention after you start noticing the symptoms of shingles. Before the appearance of rashes, the pain can begin.
If you can take antiviral medications after that appearance of shingle rash within 72 hours, then you can reduce the risk of postherpetic neuralgia.
Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Contagious?
Well, shingles that lead to postherpetic neuralgia are not contagious, but the virus that is responsible for the condition is contagious. Shingles will cause a lot of painful rashes on one side of your body and will also affect the abdomen, back, face, internal organ, and mouth. Hence it is imperative to take proper vaccines.
If you know What is post-herpetic neuralgia? And the complications related to it, then you will be able to take proper precautions.
The shingles that cause postherpetic neuralgia in the later stages will cause burning, tingling, or numbness on your skin or one side of the body. Inside the rashes or blisters, there are some fluids. The area near the rashes will become red. It will take one week for the blisters to appear and dry up completely.
During the time between the appearance of blisters and drying up, try to keep a distance from the affected person. If any other person is getting in contact with the blisters or it’s a puss, then they will have a high probability of getting this virus. So there are several ways by which you can prevent the transmission, so some of them are:
- Avoid scratching or touching the area of rash before it is getting crusted or dried.
- Try to dress loosely and cover the rash.
- Always practice proper hand hygiene and wash your hands frequently.
- Pregnant women should keep a distance from people who are affected with postherpetic neuralgia because they won’t be able to take any vaccination.
Natural Ways To Treat Postherpetic Neuralgia
Apart from the vaccines and other medications, one can also use natural techniques to ease the pain or inflammation. Varicella-zoster, when it gets activated, can cause stress, trauma, and aging. So you can try out the natural remedies for treating this condition.
Essential oil helps in dealing with skin irritation or healing. It has been used for several years as a herbal remedy. Some of the significant essential oil which you can use are chamomile oil, Eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil. Chamomile oil comes with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which helps in reducing the ulcers and promote skin cell regeneration.
Eucalyptus oil increases the recovery of sores. Tea tree oil can help in promoting the healing procedure of a wound. Dilute the oil before applying it to the area. Talk to the doctor before using them.
You can apply the cold compress on the site where the rashes are appearing to reduce inflammation and relief itchiness. You can use a cotton cloth and dip it into the cold water. Now use this in the area and repeat them. Do not expose the infected skin in the extreme temperature because, at this time, your skin is super sensitive.
Avoid using water with extreme temperatures like too hot or too cold. If water is too hot, then it will increase the flow of blood and reduce the healing process. If the water is too cold, then the skin will become more sensitive.
Diet plays a significant role when it comes to fighting or preventing illness. When you are affected with postherpetic neuralgia, it is crucial to eat different types of nutrients coming from fruits, vegetables, whole grains like in nuts, lean meats, or legumes. Opt for fruits that have carotenoids like green food, red food, or orange food. Carotenoids help in increasing the immune function.
If you are healthy, then you will hardly need to have supplements. When your immune system gets compromised, then you should consider taking supplements. People whose age is more than 50 should have supplements for maintaining strong immunity and good health.
You can take Vitamin D for proper immune function. Apart from that, try selenium, zinc, and Vitamin C supplements for improving immunity.
One can take oath baths, which will help in moisturizing the dry skin and bring relief to the inflamed and sensitive skin. According to the FDA, it is an effective and safe treatment. Try colloidal oat, which does not have any protein and helps in preventing any other reactions. Oats contain saponins and flavonoids, which help in reducing inflammation. You can use oat products for relieving itchiness and pain.
Witch hazel is very useful when it comes to reducing itchiness and inflammation. There are different forms of witch hazel that are available in the market. One can get witch hazel in cream forms as well.
Postherpetic neuralgia requires immediate attention. Otherwise, it will make you go through chronic pain. Try to take a hint from the early symptoms and seek medical help. If you are receiving the vaccination, then it will protect you against postherpetic neuralgia. There are some home remedies which are mentioned above which you can try and get some relief.
A lot of complications come with postherpetic neuralgia like depression, fatigue, difficulty in sleeping, difficulty in concentrating, and lack of appetite. As all these symptoms accompany the pain, the patient life gets hindered in several ways. Many people are not aware of What is post-herpetic neuralgia? This article will help them to understand the journey of shingles to postherpetic neuralgia