Nerve damage can lead to a range of difficult-to-treat conditions. Post-Herpetic neuralgia is one of these conditions which needs professional medical treatment to manage.

What is Post-Herpetic Neuralgia?

Post-herpetic neuralgia occurs when nerves became irritated, inflamed or damaged.

Those affected may experience different intensities of pain. Sensations such as burning, itchiness and pain caused by light touch or cold air can be excruciating.

Causes of Post-Herpetic Neuralgia

People who have had chicken pox in their lifetime still have the herpes-zoster virus in their nerves (this is different from the herpes-simplex virus that may cause cold sores.) In older age this virus may get reactivated, especially as a result of reduced immunity from chronic illnesses, steroids, or cancer treatments. This can lead to a rash on one side of the body and pain for a few weeks.

Anti-viral medications may help these symptoms. In a small percentage of patients, however, the pain can be excruciating, hard to treat and can last for months to years. In these circumstances, the condition is diagnosed as PHN.


The symptoms of PHN include:

  • A sharp burning or stabbing pain
  • Relentless itchiness
  • Long-lasting pain
  • Skin numbness
  • Sensitivity to the touch or from cold air

These symptoms can occur anywhere on the body, including the face. If you do display the symptoms and are in pain, it is vital to seek medical attention. Treatment may include nerve pain medications and nerve blocks. This type of pain is typically resistant to opioid or narcotic medications.


Overall, post-herpetic neuralgia is a challenging condition to manage. Fortunately, vaccination is available for older people to reduce the chances of developing shingles that can progress to this condition.

It is important to seek treatment early once you do develop symptoms of shingles to reduce the course of the condition’s process and risks of developing PHN.