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Tag Archive: Postherpetic Neuralgia

Postherpetic Neuralgia Pain Relief – The Options for Recovery

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.

Postherpetic Neuralgia Pain TreatmentSymptoms

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

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.


Pain and Numbness After Shingles – Improvement with Stem Cell Therapy

Postherpetic Neuralgia - numbness after shinglesShingles is the medical term for a specific viral infection that causes a painful rash. This rash will appear over a specific area of the body where the previously dormant varicella-zoster virus, that causes chicken-pox, becomes activated in the nerves cells near the spine due to certain factors such as being ill from another infection which causes the immune system to drop. Symptoms such as pain and numbness after shingles may occur and are referred to as postherpetic neuralgia.

Other symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia include a burning sensation, sensitivity of the affected area, and tingling after shingles. The risk factors associated with developing this complication is being an advanced age (over 60), and the area where the shingles initially occurred.

Management of postherpetic neuralgia

There is no cure for postherpetic neuralgia, but there are conservative measures which can be incorporated to help alleviate the symptoms caused by this complication.

These measures include the use of lidocaine or capsaicin skin patches that are applied to the affected area. The latter of these has been shown to be effective for up to three months after the patch is applied. Anti-epileptic medications such as pregabalin and gabapentin help to stabilize the neuronal activity in the nerve cells resulting in a decrease in the symptoms. Antidepressant medications such as amitryptiline and duloxetine have shown to affect the way pain is sensed by the body, so these also help to bring about a relief of symptoms.

If these medications aren’t effective, then opioid medications such as codeine and tramadol may be prescribed. These drugs do have the potential to result in dependence though which can lead to addictive behavior, so these are potential concerns that need to be weighed against the benefit of the medication to the patient.

Stem cell therapy for postherpetic neuralgia

Stem cells are primitive cells that undergo differentiation into different tissues of the body such as bone, blood, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. They are therefore responsible for the repair of damaged tissues but as one gets older, the body loses the ability to attract stem cells to complete the recovery process. Stem cell therapy has been shown in many clinical research trials to be an extremely effective form of treatment in patients who have experienced injuries to these tissues.

Numerous studies have shown that the intravenous administration of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) help with relieving pain caused by neuropathic problems. MSCs are known to release anti-inflammatory compounds that help to modulate pain in affected individuals.

Postherpetic neuralgia is considered a neuropathic condition because the nerve cells are affected to elicit the mentioned symptoms. Therefore, it stands to reason that stem cell therapy in patients with postherpetic neuralgia should be able to repair damaged nerve tissue, and MSC administration can produce anti-inflammatory effects to reduce the pain, numbness and burning sensation caused by this complication of shingles.

Stem cell therapy is only known to have minor side-effects associated it such as headaches. It is not associated with any other major issues or complications and is, therefore, a very safe form of treatment.

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