Shingles pain isn't just skin deep
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Many people associate shingles with chickenpox, and for good reason: the same virus causes the two diseases. In fact, a person who has been exposed to chickenpox never really gets rid of the virus. Instead, it lies dormant in the nerves. This virus can stay dormant and often does, but it can also reappear as shingles. This is especially frequent in people with immune systems weakened by disease or treatment and can happen years or decades after the person had chickenpox.
For some, the only effect of shingles is a painful rash that appears as a band on one side of the body. For others, the impacts can be long-lasting and debilitating. When shingles pain occurs for at least three months after the lesions have healed, patients may be diagnosed with post-herpetic neuralgia.
This pain appears in the same area where patients developed shingles lesions and is described as a burning feeling. “This pain is different than what a patient would experience from back pain or a sprained ankle because this type of pain is different in its path of physiology,” explains Ahmet Dervish, MD, a BayCare Clinic pain specialist. “This pain is actually originating from the nerve tissues, which are damaged by the virus that caused the shingle.”
Because of this, typical pain treatment does not work and doctors must utilize different types of medications. “Certain injections, such as nerve blocks, can provide a significant amount of relief,” Dr. Dervish states. “There are also medications specifically effective against this type of neuropathic pain.” Examples of these medications include gabapentin or Lyrica.
If you or a loved one is suffering from shingles pain, Dr. Dervish encourages a visit to a specialist, “Over time most patients will recover but this will be a lengthy process. They will need medical attention to help with their pain.”
To set up an appointment today, call (920) 288-8377 or request an appointment online.