If you have shingles, it’s daunting to know that you may be one of the unlucky ones who develop a long-lasting nerve pain which occurs due to the varicella-zoster virus responsible for both shingles and chicken pox. If you do, know that it can take up to a year to recover fully and even longer for some people. The pain and discomfort are caused by inflammation of the nerves beneath the skin and postherpetic neuralgia pain relief will play an important role in recovery, enabling you to live as normal a life as is possible. This complication occurs when the nerve fibers are damaged and so, the messages from your skin to the brain become confused and therefore pain can be ongoing, chronic and at times, excruciating.
Although it is unclear as to why some shingles sufferers develop postherpetic neuralgia, the symptoms are certainly unpleasant as pain may be continuous. This is difficult to deal with and usually affects the areas of the body where shingles first occurred, usually on one side of the body in the trunk area but, it can also occur on the face. Symptoms include itching which may seem unbearable at times but also, a burning, stabbing pain similar to an electric shock. Even the lightest of touches can feel painful as your skin becomes ultra-sensitive. Those who are over 60-years of age appear to be particularly vulnerable.
Pain relief is of the utmost importance. It’s certainly easy to feel stressed and weakened by the ongoing pain. Some people also experience feelings of depression. Unfortunately, the usual ‘over the counter’ pain medications will not be strong enough and where necessary, your doctor can prescribe amitriptyline or nortriptyline which will help to target any feelings of depression but, some anti-depressants are also useful for pain relief. Lidocaine or capsaicin skin patches may alleviate any pain experienced for up to 3 months and this will at least afford you some relief from the ongoing pain. If this is not strong enough, there is the potential for opioid drugs but of course, these will only be prescribed where absolutely necessary as there are concerns as to their addictive nature. As an alternative, electrical nerve stimulators could be used but this is a treatment that would be discussed with you if the pain is very severe.
Stem Cells as a Potential Solution
As there is no definitive cure for postherpetic neuralgia, it’s wise to consider all options. Stem cells have been used in treatments for a great many years, but these treatments have really come to the fore in recent years. For postherpetic neuralgia, this is timely as it is traditionally very difficult to treat as it is akin to neuropathic pain. Stem cells, as primitive cells can develop into the cells needed to help regeneration. As we grow older, it is difficult to attract sufficient stem cells to the body parts that needs it, and this is why the cells are injected directly into the area that needs it and they have the potential to actually replace those damaged nerve cells. The results are highly encouraging.