The symptoms of shingles generally disappear along with the rash which may have appeared along one side of the face or body. But, pain persists long after the skin has cleared for some people.
It is called postherpetic neuralgia, and it is the most common complication of shingles. Postherpetic neuralgia occurs due to damage of your nerve fibers during an outbreak of shingles.
Damaged fibers cannot send messages from your skin to the brain as they generally do. Instead, the messages become disordered and exaggerated. Thus, causing chronic, often severe pain.
The main symptom of this condition is pain in the nerves. In this, people might feel intense sensations of burning, tingling, and shooting which don’t let up.
Often, the skin is overly sensitive and inflamed., The pain and burning can be severe and might keep you from sleeping. This condition could last for 3 months or longer and one could be sensitive to touch and have trouble wearing clothes.
In case you have had shingles and you are hurting weeks or months later, consult your doctor. They will come up with a proper treatment plan after knowing your symptoms. Hence, this plan can include a mix of medicines and other things to provide you relief.
What medicines can I take to feel better?
Your physician has a lot of ways to treat your pain after shingles, counting a variety of medicines. They medications include following.
Anticonvulsants; these were developed to control seizures, but they are also helpful to reduce the pain of postherpetic neuralgia. Examples are;
- Carbamazepine (Epitol, Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol)
- Gabapentin (Neurontin, Fanatrex)
- Pregabalin (Lyrica)
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Tricyclic antidepressants; these medications can help ease the pain of postherpetic neuralgia. They comprise the following medicines;
- Amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
Steroids; a corticosteroid medicine can be injected into the area around the spinal cord. Further, steroids should not be used until the shingles pustular skin rash has totally disappeared.
Lidocaine skin patches; it is a common local anesthetic and antiarrhythmic drug which is applied to the skin. It can relieve burning, itching, and pain from inflammation.
Prescription painkillers; over-the-counter medicine may be sufficient for mild cases, but severe cases might need more powerful opioid (narcotic) painkillers, like;
- Hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Lorcet, Norco, Lortab, Vicodin)
- Long-acting hydrocodone (Zohydro ER, Hysingla ER)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
- Morphine (Kadian, Astramorph, Avinza, MS-Contin, Oramorph SR)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, OxyFast, Roxicodone)
- Oxycodone and naloxone (Targiniq ER)
- Oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet)
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS); this treatment plan involves placing electrodes which emit small electrical impulses over the areas where pain arises. This treatment has an advantage that patient can turn the TENS device on and off as required.
Some people find that TENS releases pain, while others do not. Thus, its efficiency and value have not been confirmed yet.
Spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulation; these devices offer a safe, effective, and efficient way to relieve neuropathic pain conditions. They are fixed under your skin along the course of peripheral nerves. Before its implantation, doctors do a trial run using a thin wire electrode to determine the response of a patient.
Preventing post-herpetic neuralgia
There is no certain way to prevent this condition. But if shingles are treated early with antiviral medicine, the risk of complications like post-herpetic neuralgia is reduced. If you develop symptoms like pain or a rash which suggests shingles, consult your doctor as soon as possible to discuss taking an antiviral treatment.
However, having the shingles vaccination will aid you to avoid getting the infection in the first place. If you have had shingles before, the vaccine will reduce your risk of getting it again.