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How Common Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Or Is It A Rare Disease?

Postherpetic neuralgia is a painful condition that arises as a complication of shingles or herpes zoster. It affects nerve fibers and skin. It usually develops after the reactivation of varicella-zoster that has infected the patient in the form of shingles. It arises when the nerve fibers during shingles are damaged. It is common among the people who had shingles in their past. Its symptoms involve pain the same place where shingles or herpes appeared, long-lasting pain, burning sensation, sensitivity to touch and temperature changes. It can be managed with medicines and it can also be prevented.

How Common Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Or Is It A Rare Disease?

c is a painful condition that appears after an episode of shingles or herpes zoster. It is a common complication of herpes zoster. It is not a rare condition. It happens due to reactivation of the virus named herpes zoster. Shingle is a painful skin rash caused by herpes or varicella zoster. Shingles itself develops due to reactivation of this virus which infected the patient as chicken pox in the childhood or adolescence. It was dormant in the nerve cells after childhood and got reactivated years after.(1)

If neuralgia or nerve pain remains even after the episode of shingles, then it is termed as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). Neuralgia is a type of nerve pain that is felt in the course of the nerve. It appears due to the irritation or damage to the nerve fibers. The pain felt is like the sensation of intense burning or stabbing. It arises from the nervous system without any stimulus. The pain is felt when the messages related to pain is transmitted due to irritation of the nerve fibers.(2)

American Academy of family physician states that PHN develops in 20 percent of peoples who get shingles. Its incidence is more common in the people who are above the age of 60 years.(1) The chances of developing postherpetic neuralgia increase when-

  • The age of the patient is above 50 years,
  • Previous shingles had a severe rash and severe pain
  • The patient also has a chronic illness like diabetes
  • The shingles had appeared on the face or torso
  • The rashes of Shingles appeared and the antiviral treatment was delayed over 72 hours(3)

Post-herpetic neuralgia is caused by a virus named herpes zoster. If a person had chickenpox, the virus herpes enters the body and remains dormant throughout life. It becomes reactive when the immune system is compromised and shingles develop. Shingles may cause damage to the nerve fibers leading to post-herpetic neuralgia. Skin does not receive a correct message from the brain. Thus, it causes chronic and excruciating pain that ends in months or years.(3)

The symptoms develop after the symptoms of shingles go away. It is usually limited to the skin where rashes of shingles have appeared. It is usually around the trunk in a band. It usually affects one side of the body. It includes chronic excruciating pain in the affected area, sensitivity to touch, itching and numbness in the skin. The pain remains for three months or longer. It is burning, sharp, deep and aching in nature. The skin of the affected area is so sensitive that the slightest touch of the clothes is not bearable. In some cases, it causes itching and numbness in the affected skin.(3)

The complications of Postherpetic neuralgia develop when chronic pain continues. It involves fatigue, depression, difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite and poor concentration.(3)


Postherpetic neuralgia is a painful condition that develops when shingles vanish. It is a common complication of shingles. It is not a rare disease and it develops in every 2 in 10 patients of shingles. It usually affects old people above the age of 60 years.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 9, 2019

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