Postherpetic neuralgia is pain, headaches, and nerve problems that occur as a complication of shingles (herpes zoster). Postherpetic neuralgia lasts for at least 30 days and can continue for months to years.
People who develop shingles after age 50 and who have severe pain and rash during shingles have the greatest risk for having postherpetic neuralgia. It most commonly occurs on the forehead or chest. The pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia may make it difficult to eat, sleep, and do daily activities. It may also increase the risk for depression.
Early treatment of shingles with antiviral medicines may prevent postherpetic neuralgia. After postherpetic neuralgia occurs, certain medicines, such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and opioids, can relieve pain.
Sometimes the pain of postherpetic neuralgia can be controlled with over-the-counter medicines, such as:
Prescription medicines used to treat postherpetic neuralgia include:
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