What is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)?

Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a painful, long-lasting condition. It is more likely to develop in older patients after an attack of shingles (varicella-zoster virus). Even after the severe rash of shingles lessens, pain can continue in shingles-affected areas. This condition is known as PHN when the pain continues for longer than 4 months after the onset of the rash. PHN occurs most often in older adults and in patients whose immune systems have been compromised.

What causes postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)?

The pain of PHN, which occurs in the same area as the pain and rash of shingles, results from damage to nerve fibers during the shingles infection. Shingles is caused by a recurrence of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles, but the disorder is most common in people over the age of 60.

What are the symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)?

In PHN, pain is intense and may be described as burning, stabbing, or gnawing. Affected areas of the body may be hypersensitive or may have decreased sensation. Areas formerly affected by shingles may show evidence of skin scarring.

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