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Can shingles pain lead to a decline in quality of life?

Matthew F. McCarty, MD
Anesthesiology

Yes. A percentage of people can develop pain after shingles otherwise known as PHN or post herpetic neuralgia. The elderly and those that have a severe case with attendant severe pain can likely go on to suffer from PHN. This pain can be debilitating and lead to depression over time. There have even been suicides reported by people suffering from this intractable pain. The intensity can range from mild to severe. This pain is often an itchy, constant burning pain that can be worsened by light touch or clothing and even a light breeze. Often multiple medications are required. Medicines such as anti-seizure drugs like lyrica or gabapentin and antidepressants such as elavil can be titrated to find the right combination

Most recently a breakthrough has occurred to help people with post herpetic neuralgia. The FDA has approved a patch called Qutenza which is impregnated with 8% Capsaiscin (chili pepper oil in a concentrated form). It can be utilized to successfully deactivate the sensory nerve endings in the painful area. Your physician can apply this patch after anesthetizing the region and results seen within days. It can be repeated every 3-5 months depending on the response.

Any type of pain can affect quality of life. The important thing with shingles is to try to see a healthcare provider early on. There are medications that can speed up recovery from shingles, and which can decrease the pain associated with shingles. It is important to try to do activities that bring you joy and that maintain your quality of life regardless of whether you are experiencing pain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.