Medical Q&As

Shingles - still in pain?

I have recently had shingles on the forehead and near my right eye. Although the medication killed the shingles I still have quite a bit of pain in the area. Is this normal?

It is quite common for people to suffer significant pain following an attack of shingles. This is referred to as post herpetic neuralgia, which means nerve pain following shingles. We recognise shingles because of the characteristic rash that consists of several small vesicles or blisters. The rash is confined to the skin distribution of the underlying nerve, which is also affected by the virus. The infection initially affects the nerve and then the overlying skin develops the vesicular rash. Over time the rash recedes but the inflammation in the underlying nerve may persist. Sometimes the nerve is permanently damaged, which can lead to troublesome persistent pain. It is not unusual for post herpetic neuralgia to persist for several weeks or months but in the majority of cases it eventually disappears. Some people may suffer occasional minor twinges in the affected area many years after the event. Others may continue to suffer significant levels of persistent pain and may require referral to a specialist pain clinic in order to obtain relief from their suffering. Modern antiviral drugs have reduced the incidence of post herpetic neuralgia and they are at their most effective in that regard when therapy is initiated early. There is a great deal that can be done to relieve your pain and I certainly would not put up with it as something that has to endured.