Postherpetic neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia is pain, headaches, and nerve problems that occur as a complication of shingles (herpes zoster). Postherpetic neuralgia lasts for at least 30 days and can continue for months to years.

People who develop shingles after age 50 and who have severe pain and rash during shingles have the greatest risk for developing postherpetic neuralgia. It most commonly occurs on the forehead or chest. The pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia may make it difficult to eat, sleep, and perform daily activities. It may also increase the risk for depression.

Postherpetic neuralgia is difficult to treat; however, early treatment of shingles with antiviral medications may prevent development of postherpetic neuralgia. Once postherpetic neuralgia occurs, certain medications, such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and opioids, can relieve pain. Most cases of postherpetic neuralgia resolve within a year.

Last Updated: March 9, 2009

Author: Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology

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