What Increases My Risk Of Developing Long-Term Pain Associated With Shingles?

Dr. Anne Oaklander answers the question: 'Long-Term Risk of Shingles Pain?'

ByABC News
November 14, 2008, 1:38 PM

— -- Question: Is There Anything That Will Increase My Risk Of Developing Long-Term Pain Associated With Shingles?

Answer: Long-term pain after shingles is known as postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN. Shingles is bad enough and it's usually painful. But in most cases, the pain passes off as the rash heals.

Sadly, though, a number of people are left with chronic neuralgic or neuropathic pain known as postherpetic neuralgia. This can last for months or even years after the shingles rash has healed totally. It's the most common and the most dreaded complication of shingles.

The major risk factors for being left with postherpetic neuralgia after shingles are a person's age, and how bad their shingles infection is. Young people have very low risk of being left with PHN. In most cases, their pain goes away as their rash heals. Older people, on the other hand, have a substantial risk of chronic pain lasting after their shingles.

The other major risk factor has to do with how bad the nerve damage from shingles is. If someone has a severe rash with many shingles vesicles that causes severe nerve damage, their chances of prolonged PHN are increased.

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