Shingles (herpes zoster), an often a very painful disease, is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in certain nerves of your body. If the virus becomes active again when you are an adult, you get shingles.
For some people the nerve pain persists well after resolution of the rash. This condition is called postherpectic neuralgia. Most often, the symptom is one-sided pain and has been described as:
- Shooting and/or sharp
Symptoms usually disipitate in 2 to 3 weeks. However, when postherpetic neuralgia occurs after having shingles, the pain can may persist for months or even years.
Additional symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty moving some muscles in the face
- Drooping eyelid/loss of eye motion/vision problems
- Genital lesions
- Hearing loss
- Joint pain/muscle weakness
- Swollen lymph nodes
Prevention and Causes
If you have never had the chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, avoid touching the rash and blisters of someone who has the virus. The chickenpox vaccine may be reccommended for teenagers or adults who have never had chickenpox. Adults over the age of sixty, should consider receiving the chickenpox vaccine. Medical evidence has shown that older adults who receive the vaccine are less likely to have complications from the virus.
After you get the chickenpox, the virus becomes dormant in certain nerves in the body. Shingles occurs after the virus becomes active again in these nerves. The virus can remain inactive for several years. The reason for the virus to become active again is unclear.
Shingles may develop at any age, however, one is likely to develop the virus if:
- You had chickenpox before the age of one
- You are over the age of 60
- Your immune system is weakend by medications or disease
Our pain management specialists can offer you options to help manage the pain caused by shingles and postherpectic neuralgia. Lidocaine patches and steroid injections into the affected nerve root are two methods we frequently use to block the pain of shingles and postherpectic neuralgia.