Postherpetic neuralgia or PHN is the most common complication of shingles. It affects skin and nerve fibers and causes persistent nerve pain after an outbreak of the viral infection. Approximately one in five people with shingles also develop postherpetic neuralgia. Symptoms of PHN persist for at least one or two months after the shingles rash and blisters heal. Severe cases of PHN can last for years. There is no cure for shingles or postherpetic neuralgia, but the condition is treatable and managed with a variety of medications and interventions.
The herpes varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox. After the initial infection, the virus remains in the nervous system in a dormant or inactive state. Varicella-zoster can reactivate and cause shingles when the immune system weakens due to age, immunosuppressive medications, or illness. People over the age of 65 and those with a family history of PHN are at the highest risk of developing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia.
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