Although most people suffer with shingles for about a month, post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a painful condition and skin sensitivity that can continue for months or even years, long after the shingles rash heals. The pain results from damage to the nerve fibers during the shingles infection. The pain of PHN can be felt in the same area as the pain and rash of shingles, smaller or even larger areas than the original rash site. Patients have described the pain of this condition as deep and aching, fire sensation under the skin, electrical shocks, and unbearable shooting pain. For some PHN patients, a light touch, the pressure of a shirt, a gust of wind, or brushing the hair, can bring tears to the eyes. In other sufferers, the painful area is sensitive to slight changes in temperature. Because this condition can be severely painful, it can interfere with a person's life. For some, all normal activity comes to a halt for months. Depression is common because of the severe pain and social isolation that can occur.
A variety of treatments have been used to treat this condition. Medications, acupuncture, electrical stimulation or TENS unit, cold packs, and interventional therapy such as nerve blocks have all been used to treat post-herpetic neuralgia. Speak with your healthcare provider immediately if you think you may be developing or have had shingles, early therapy may help to shorten the duration of symptoms.
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