Postherpetic Neuralgia Pain and How to Treat It
If you’ve ever had chickenpox, you may have developed shingles or herpes zoster as a complication. This is synonymous with an agonizing rash that resembles blisters on your torso. However, once this rash disappears, the pain may sometimes linger. When this occurs, you’ve developed Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN), a condition that up to 20% of shingles sufferers develop. But what exactly does this entail and how can you treat it? Read further to discover more.
What Does Postherpetic Neuralgia Entail?
This is an excruciating condition that affects both your skin and nerves. If you’ve had chickenpox as a child, the dormant virus attached to it called the herpes varicella-zoster may be reactivated later in life and lead to shingles. If your nerves are damaged during a shingles episode, those nerves are unable to transmit messages from your skin to your brain. This can result in chronic pain that can possibly endure for years. Some of the symptoms of this condition according to Mayo Clinic includes:
- Itching and numbing
- Skin that’s extremely sensitive to the touch
- Burning pain that endures for longer than three months after your shingles rash has disappeared
What are the Risk Factors and Causes Linked to Postherpetic Neuralgia?
The reactivation of the chickenpox virus that causes shingles can be caused by:
- An infection
- Immunocompromised condition due to receiving leukemia treatments
Risk factors of Postherpetic Neuralgia are that:
- Over the age of 60 years old
- Genetic predisposition
How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Diagnosed?
If you suspect that you have Postherpetic Neuralgia, your physician will perform a follow-up examination of your shingles outbreak. He or she will record your history of the most recent shingles episode. If your pain is situated in the exact nerve distribution area where the shingle wound was, you have PHN.
Prevention and Treatment Techniques
You could prevent Postherpetic Neuralgia with antiviral therapy and low-dose tricyclic antidepressants to prevent this condition. This is especially helpful to those sufferers over 50 years who have had extreme bouts of shingles.
You could treat Postherpetic Neuralgia with opioids such as tramadol or oxycodone or by applying Capsaicin skin patches to the painful area. This must be done by a trained medical professional though. You can also try using anticonvulsants to reduce pain, as this helps stabilize your nervous system.
MidSouth Pain Treatment Center also offers a variety of interventional pain management treatments for Postherpetic Neuralgia. Some of these are:
Spinal Cord Stimulation
This treatment is ideal for treating pain and discomfort associated with nerve pain caused by damaged nerves such as the case with Postherpetic Neuralgia. With this technique, a tiny Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) device is surgically inserted below your skin, to transmit a small electric pulse to your spinal cord. Narrow wires transmit current via a pulse generator to your nerve fibers in your spine.
When the SCS device is switched on, it stimulates the nerves in the area where your painful shingles lesion is. This stimulation prevents pain signals from traveling to your brain. Risks of this procedure include spinal fluid leakage and infection.
Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation (DRG)
DRG stimulation is used to treat chronic pain, including chronic nerve-related pain. This therapy stimulates your Dorsal Root Ganglion, which are formations along your spine comprising sensory nerves. Here a small device containing electrical pulses is placed into the region close to your DRG. This helps stimulate the nerves causing neuralgia.
You can also reduce or heighten the stimulation strength, as your doctor will give you a hand-controlled device to help you control the pain better. Once your nerves are stimulated, pain signals are masked, and this eliminates pain. Some of the risks here include bleeding and pain at the treatment site.
This technique is not very invasive and helps destroy the nerve fibers responsible for transmitting pain signals to your brain. It provides lasting relief for those suffering from chronic nerve pain, resulting from nerve damage. It’s also non-surgical with a fast recovery period. This method uses heat or ablation to destroy the nerves causing pain. A narrow needle linked to a radiofrequency electrode is directed via an X-ray.
This needle injects current along the medial branch of your nerves. The current forms a lesion that damages the targeted nerves and prevents it from sending pain signals. An uncommon risk includes possible damage to your surrounding nerves or blood vessels.
MidSouth Pain Treatment Center
Schedule a consultation for one of our treatments and begin treating your postherpetic neuralgia pain! We have convenient locations across the MidSouth near you. Call us today.