Post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is the most common complication from shingles (varicella herpes zoster). It is a condition that is caused by damage to nerve fibres, causing burning pain that lasts long after the rash and blisters of shingles has resolved.
The symptoms of PHN are generally limited to the area of skin where the shingles outbreak occurred. This is most commonly a band around the chest/abdomen, and usually on one side of the body, but can occur anywhere, including the face and head. Other symptoms include:
The risk of postherpetic neuralgia increases with age, primarily affecting people older than 60 and those with weakened immune systems such as those with diabetes.
Over time, there is a slow resolution of the pain syndrome, but for a small group of patients, they will experience chronic pain as a result of the nerve damage and do not respond of medical treatment.
Diagnosis is based on the patient assessment as well as known risk factors for PHN.
The criteria for diagnosis includes:
In most cases, no further tests are necessary.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment that modifies or alters the disease course of PHN. Treatment is more aimed at symptom control.
Symptom control for PHN can include:
It is important to note that PHN affects people in different ways and one person’s response to treatment will be different from another person’s. Your pain specialist will work out a plan on how best to treat you and your symptoms.
**This information sheet has been written for patients affected by PHN and provides general information only**
References: Pain Australia; Mayo Clinic.
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