What is shingles?
Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is a painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus (varicella zoster virus). If you have suffered from chickenpox before, the varicella zoster virus remains in your body and resurfaces when your immune system weakens due to aging, stress or disease. It forms a rash that appears as blisters on one side of the body. It can also affect the face and eye, causing severe pain or even blindness.
How is shingles treated?
Antiviral drugs should be started within 48 hours from the onset of the rash. Usually, strong painkillers are needed, as the pain from shingles can be severe.
What is post-herpetic neuralgia?
When the pain from shingles persists for more than 3 months after the onset of the rash, the condition is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This results from permanent damage to the nerves, leading to continuous pain, hypersensitivity and numbness in the area of the body where the rash used to be.
How is post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) treated?
Strong painkillers, drugs that specifically treat nerve pain and local anaesthetic plasters are used to treat PHN. In severe cases, sympathetic nerve blocks, spinal injections of steroid or spinal cord stimulation may be required to alleviate the pain from PHN.
In patients older than 50 years old, the risk of developing shingles and PHN can be reduced through vaccination.