Treatment For Postherpetic Neuralgia After Shingles

Shingles affects around 250,000 people each year in the United Kingdom; it is brought on by the same virus which causes chickenpox which around 90% of people suffer from as children. The virus, which is called herpes varicella-zoster, remains dormant in the nervous system following chickenpox and is reactivated in later life. While there is no definitive proof as to why reactivation is caused, it is commonly linked to a weakening of the immune system. The shingles virus causes an infection in the nerve endings and a rash along the nerve route, there are also complications that can be felt after the virus has gone, the most common one being postherpetic neuralgia. Treatment for postherpetic neuralgia after shingles can be given in different ways and the type of medication used will depend on the severity of the pain.

Seeking medical advice for postherpetic neuralgia

Treatment for postherpetic neuralgia after shingles is best given by a doctor or a GP. The symptoms of pain, burning, aching and ‘electric shock’ sensations are often two severe to be treated using over-the-counter medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Seeking medical advice is the only way to receive the medication needed to ease the symptoms.

A doctor or GP prescribing treatment for the condition will look at a number of things before concluding which medication is best for the individual patient. The decision will look at the current mental and physical state of the patient and if postherpetic neuralgia treatment will impact on any current medication. There will also be a need to look at the benefits that the medication will have and how the possible side effects will affect the patient.

Common treatments given for postherpetic neuralgia

In most cases, treatment for postherpetic neuralgia after shingles will require strong painkilling medication; this is usually given in the form of opioids, tricyclic antidepressants or anticonvulsants. Each medication has proven benefits in helping to ease the pain caused by this after-shingles complication.

Opioids work by mimicking the body’s natural pain reducing chemicals, endorphins. Endorphins are found in the brain and spinal cord and by mimicking the action and combining with opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, opioids are able dampen down the nerves senses, resulting in less pain being felt. The most commonly prescribed opioid is codeine although some cases may warrant the use of the stronger morphine.

Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, imipramine and nortriptyline and prescribed in a much lower dose than what is common with cases of depression. These drugs work by assisting the brain in the release of serotonin which is a chemical that creates happiness, this will mean that the symptoms of pain are felt less and kept under control effectively.

Anticonvulsants are commonly used to control seizures in epileptic patients but can be used effectively as treatment for postherpetic neuralgia after shingles. They work by stabilising nerve activity in the brain and blocking out the neurons that cause seizures, this leads to nerve endings being dulled down so that pain cannot be felt.




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