Post-herpetic neuralgia is brought about by the varicella virus after an episode of shingles. No studies have been able to define exactly how this happens. However, some theories have been surmised to help explain this phenomenon. One possibility is that the nerve cells are activated more when injured, thus the exaggerated stimuli response. Another probable reason for this pain may be that the newly grown nerve endings are provoked from the sensory neutrons, altering the central nervous system response. In addition, the virus attack may prompt the body to create chemical mediators in order to fight the inflammation. This may irritate the sensory receptors, which leads to pain.
Shingles occur when a person’s immune system is weakened. A person is at more risk when he’s diagnosed with AIDS, diabetes, or other immune-related diseases. The older a person is when they get shingles, the more likely they are to develop post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN’S severity and duration also increases with age. Other risk factors include rash severity and psychological distress at the time of the rash. Studies reveal that caucasians are more likely to develop shingles and PHN than other nationalities.
Shingles appear one one side of the body as a band or belt-like shape. The rash can occur on the chest, forehead, stomach and, almost any other part of the body. The PHN pain develops at the same area as the shingles. Affected skin can either have reduced or increased sensation, and pain intensity fluctuating like spasms. The type of pain can also vary – burning, throbbing, tingling, stabbing, aching, or piercing. Intense itching may also accompany the pain.
Unlike what other people think, shingles and PHN are not contagious. However, they do share the same virus as chicken pox, which is contagious. It is crucial for patients to report if they develop any mood or sleep patterns changes.
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