Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN)
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.
- Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) facts
- What is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)?
- What causes postherpetic neuralgia?
- What are postherpetic neuralgia symptoms and signs?
- What are the risk factors for postherpetic neuralgia?
- How is postherpetic neuralgia diagnosed?
- How is postherpetic neuralgia treated?
- How long does postherpetic neuralgia last?
- What are the complications of postherpetic neuralgia?
- What is the prognosis for postherpetic neuralgia?
- Can postherpetic neuralgia be prevented?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) facts
- PHN is a painful complication that occurs after a shingles infection.
- PHN is caused by viral damage to nerve cells.
- PHN is diagnosed by the patient's history and physical exam.
- Treatment often requires more than one agent to reduce pain.
- PHN may last one to two months, but some patients have PHN for longer than a year.
- Older people and people with relatives who get shingles are at a higher risk for PHN.
- Complications of PHN may include severe pain, pain-medicine addiction, diminished lifestyle, and in a few patients, paralysis of the affected area.
- The prognosis of PHN ranges from good to poor, depending on the length of time the disease lingers and on the development of complications.
- PHN can be prevented in many people by a vaccine designed to prevent shingles (Zostavax).
What is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)?
Postherpetic neuralgia (also termed PHN) is a condition of recurring or persistent pain in an area of the body that has undergone an outbreak of herpes zoster virus (HZ), also known as the varicella zoster virus, commonly termed shingles. It usually begins after shingles lesions (blisters) begin to crust over and heal but may occur in some patients who do not produce lesions. Some investigators suggest the pain has to be present for three months to be termed PHN.
What causes postherpetic neuralgia?
Postherpetic neuralgia is thought to be caused by the damage or alteration of nerves that register pain, pressure, and other sensory nerves (for example, touch) that occur when the reactivated HZ viruses travel down nerves to the skin. This process first begins when the virus causes chickenpox in an individual; the viruses can infect various dorsal root ganglia (nerve cells) as the chickenpox subsides. These viruses then can be reactivated, usually decades later, and produce shingles lesions. The reactivation of HZ is thought to be due to a stress on the body from either another infection or a immunocompromised state (for example, some patients undergoing treatments for leukemia) that allows the HZ to escape the dorsal root cells. PHN does not occur in everyone who gets shingles; about 9%-14% have symptoms after one month post-shingles and about 5% have PHN three months post-shingles.
Find out what women really need.