Post Herpetic Neuralgia

Post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a neuropathic pain syndrome that persists after the rash has healed. By definition, PHN begins when pain persists for longer than 3 months. PHN occurs when damaged nerves send distorted and exaggerated messages of pain from the skin to the brain. The skin may feel pain from very light touch eg a bed sheet and also burning and severe pain at the shingles site, even though the shingles infection has healed. PHN

Post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is indeed a severe ongoing condition from shingles and strikes the older population more severely than younger adults. 

PHN is relatively common after the rash has healed. The risk of PHN is highest in people who have not received antiviral and pain relief treatment for shingles. PHN can be a very painful and debilitating condition which can continue for up to a year.

Antiviral drugs like famciclovir, are given when herpes zoster appears to lessen the disease and to help prevent complications such as postherpetic neuralgia. However, once postherpetic neuralgia has become entrenched they no longer play a part in treatment.

Analgesic medication, antidepressants or anticonvulsant medications can provide pain relief.

There is a vaccination available for shingles to prevent an attack of shingles but it is not currently listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule.

As well as medications, there are a range of topical agents that can be used and the treating doctors will be able to advise you on these.


The Australian Pain Management Association Ltd. (APMA) is a health promotion charity providing advocacy, information and practical support for people living with chronic (persistent) pain and their families. APMA is the consumer health organisation for all Australians who live with pain. APMA is your voice.


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