Shingles is the bane of many people over age 60. A viral condition that causes a painful rash, most often appearing around the ribcage, shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you had chickenpox as a child, you’re at a much higher risk of having shingles as you grow older.
And if you develop shingles, you can develop a complication called postherpetic neuralgia, in which shingles symptoms continue even after the shingles rash goes away.
At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, with multiple locations in Maryland, our team of board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists can diagnose and recommend the appropriate treatment for postherpetic neuralgia.
The basics of shingles and postherpetic neuralgia
Although anyone can get chickenpox, it’s more common in children and teens, especially those who haven’t received the chickenpox vaccine. Unfortunately, even after chickenpox is over, the varicella-zoster virus that caused the condition can remain dormant in the body for decades, emerging later in life as shingles. If the episode of shingles damages nerve tissue, this can result in postherpetic neuralgia.
For many people who develop shingles, it usually occurs after age 60. However, for people with a weakened immune system or who are being given immunosuppressants, it can occur earlier.
Shingles typically shows up as a stripe of blisters wrapping around the left or right side of the ribcage. For some people, it can spread to other parts of the body, including the eyes, or start interfering with nerves and the signals sent to the brain.
Besides the blisters, the symptoms can include pain, extreme sensitivity, burning, and numbness. In most cases, a shingles outbreak lasts 3-5 weeks.
If the symptoms of shingles — such as itching or burning sensations — don’t go away after the rash clears up, this is likely because the condition damaged nerve tissue. The resulting condition is called postherpetic neuralgia.
The symptoms often appear in the same places that were affected by the shingles outbreak. Postherpetic neuralgia can last up to three months and then fade away. However, it can also linger for as long as a year, and, in rare cases, become permanent.
Treating postherpetic neuralgia
Treating postherpetic neuralgia can take several forms, and it may require some trial and error to find a remedy that works for you. At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, we have a complete array of treatment options, including:
- Medications, including opioids, to manage pain
- Nerve blocks (injections to stop constant signals to the brain)
- Acupuncture, an alternative medicine option
- Relaxation exercises to help you stop focusing on itching or burning sensations
- Counseling and group therapy for chronic pain
If you’re suffering from postherpetic neuralgia, book an appointment online or over the phone with CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center today. Our Maryland offices are located in Hyattsville, Gaithersburg, Lanham, Dundalk, Oxon Hill, Rosedale, and Olney, and we have two offices in Baltimore.