Post-herpetic neuralgia refers to the pain that follows the shingles (aka zoster or herpes zoster) outbreak. Even after the rash subsides, you can be left with pain. The pain can be burning, deep, aching or shooting and cutting. Some individuals will also feel pain when the area is touched.
Post-herpetic neuralgia is more common in older individuals and the pain in these individuals can last for a while — even more than a year.
What treatments can help post-herpetic neuralgia? Early on in the outbreak, oral antiviral agents are helpful in decreasing the duration and severity of the shingles outbreak. Pain control can be achieved by the usual pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), NSAIDS (e.g. Motrin) or even stronger pain medications such as those with opiates (e.g. oxycodone, codeine, Percocet, etc.) Short term relief can be achieved with topical anesthetic such as lidocaine patches, gel or cream or with topical capsaicin (a compound from peppers). Some oral medications that may be helpful also include gabapentin (aka Neurontin), amitriptyline, nortriptyline or desipramine. Botox (botulinum toxin) injections have also been noted to help with the pain in a few cases.
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