Postherpetic Neuralgia Shingles Treatment

Shingles is a condition causes by the reactivation of a virus known as herpes varicella-zoster which remains dormant in the nervous system as a result of chickenpox. The virus affects the nerve roots (generally two or three at a time) and leads to a rash, pain in the affected area and flu-like symptoms.

The shingles virus can affect people of any age but is most commonly found in the over 50’s; although there is no official reason why shingles occurs it is strongly linked to a weakening of the immune system. Shingles can also present complications, the most common being postherpetic neuralgia. This condition can cause extreme pain and it is important to seek medical advice for postherpetic neuralgia shingles treatment.

Treatments for postherpetic neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia shingles treatment will be given to help ease and manage the pain, common symptoms of the condition that are likely to cause the pain include burning, aching, itching, stabbing and an electric shock type sensation.

It is important to seek medical advice from a doctor or GP if you are suffering from postherpetic neuralgia as it is likely that over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen will be ineffective and prescription painkillers will be needed.

Postherpetic neuralgia shingles treatment will generally require a combination of different medication in order to provide a solution. A GP will need to take different factors into consideration when deciding on a combination of medication to be used, these include:

  • What benefits the medication gives
  • Potential side effects as a result of taking the medication
  • How the medication will effect a patient’s regular medication
  • The patient’s current physical and mental health state


Doctors will generally introduce initial treatments on a low dosage that can be increased until the pain is effectively managed. The medication used is in the form of antidepressants and anticonvulsants.

Antidepressant medication for postherpetic neuralgia

The form of antidepressant used for postherpetic neuralgia is called amitriptyline and is a tricyclic antidepressant. The medication works by affecting the chemicals in the brain and spinal cord which react to the sensation of pain, as the chemicals become affected they are less sensitive to the pain being caused. As effective as the medication is for easing the pain, side effects are also a factor with common ones including:

  • Sweating
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurring of vision
  • Dry mouth

Anticonvulsant medication for postherpetic neuralgia

Anticonvulsants are commonly used for people that suffer from epilepsy and are designed to control seizures, they are also beneficial in helping to stabilise the nerve activity in the brain and make nerves less sensitive to pain.  The anticonvulsant used for postherpetic neuralgia shingles treatment is called pregabalin and can be prescribed in the form of tablets or as syrup. It may be several weeks before the benefits of the medication can be felt and dosage will be upped to a suitable level over months. As with amitriptyline, pregabalin has various side effects to contend with including:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Weight gain
  • Fluid retention
  • Lack of co-ordination
  • Temporary memory loss




Back to Top