- When you get chickenpox as a kid, it’s mildly annoying, but it usually means that you get a few days out of school. The rash and itching from chickenpox dissipates after a few days, and you go on with your life as if nothing had happened.
What you may not have realized is that the virus that causes chickenpox stays in your body for the rest of your life. As long as your immune system is healthy, your body is able to prevent the virus from causing complications. However, if your immune system becomes compromised, either as the result of age or as the result of medications such as chemotherapy, the conditions can exist for the virus to become active again. When this happens in adults, the result is often a painful disease known as shingles.
Shingles in turn can cause you to have post-herpetic neuralgia pain. This condition is caused by the damage the chickenpox virus causes to some nerve fibers in the affected area. Shingles and the accompanying post-herpetic neuralgia pain is a lot more common than people realize. Researchers say that it affects approximately one million people.
What makes shingles pain so horrible is that, unlike chickenpox, it does not just go away after a few days. The pain, which can be so excruciating that the lightest touch is unbearable, can last for many years or for the rest of a person’s life. Some shingle sufferers can’t even handle the touch of clothing or a breeze on their skin. Post-herpetic neuralgia causes extreme suffering. It drastically disrupts people’s lives.
What Is It like When Shingles Appear?
The appearance of shingles can take people by surprise. It will often attack them at their weakest moment, when they are sick, and their immune system has been weakened because of disease or some medication. Shingles will reappear decades after an individual has had chickenpox.
One of the first signs that the virus has become active is the shingles rash. You see it on one side of your body, and it will look like a band. In addition to the rash, other symptoms will include:
- Sensitivity to Light
- Symptoms That Mimic the Flu
- Moderate to Severe Pain
Something that’s interesting about shingles is that shingles is not contagious. If you have shingles and you are around a person who has never had chickenpox, then they might catch chickenpox but never shingles.
Experts are at a loss to understand why the pain of shingles will linger for some people and will disappear almost instantly for others. However, if post-herpetic neuralgia last for more than a year, it is less likely to resolve on its own.
Who Is at the Greatest Risk for Nerve Pain after Shingles?
Researchers have known that the older an individual is when they get shingles, the higher the chances that they will have continued post-herpetic neuralgia pain. However, there are other factors that might increase prolonged nerve pain risk. These include:
- Being Female
- Having Symptoms like Tingling, Itching, or Pain Prior to the Presence of a Rash
- Extreme Pain during the First Phases of the Illness
- Severe Rash
The more risk factors you have, the greater the risk you have of developing post-herpetic neuralgia.
Describing her experience with shingles, one sufferer wrote that her rash did not appear until almost a week after the pain started. The pain started in her right shoulder blade, and it felt as if she had hurt herself. No matter how she moved her body, the pain would not subside. So she knew it was not from her muscles. At the outset, the pain was not so severe that she felt it merited a doctor’s visit. But the pain was incessant.
Then, the burning started. Mind you, the burning did not replace the achy feeling, instead it added onto the achy feeling. And then the rash came. Because she had multiple risk factors, she ended up with long-term post-herpetic neuralgia.
The Emotional Effect of Shingles Related Pain
As with most types of pain, there is a link between your emotions and the severity of the pain that you feel. One study showed that individuals who developed post-herpetic neuralgia had more severe symptoms if they also had an emotional or personality disorder like hypochondria or other body complaints.
Multiple studies have shown the link between increased stress and the development of shingles. One study even showed that people who developed shingles while living on their own had more serious symptoms than those who lived with others.
The reverse is also true. Shingles pain can affect a person’s emotions. Being in constant pain can make a person feel lost and alone. The relationships they once enjoyed with others slowly disappear as the pain makes them irritable and limits the amount of physical activities they can engage in. The pain makes you tired to the point where you just do not want to do anything. This in turn leads to despair and depression.
How We Can Help
When you are dealing with shingles pain, it’s very easy to think that you’re on your own and that no one can understand what you are going through. We want to assure you that you are not on your own. In our years of experience, we have worked with many brave shingles pain sufferers, and we have been able to help manage their pain. We are excited to use our skills and expertise to help you.
After listening to you tell us about your pain, our goal is to work with you side-by-side in developing a short-term and a long-term pain management treatment. When you walk out of our clinic after the initial consultation, you will know clearly what our goals are, how we intend to help you, and what pain management for shingles requires from you.
Shingles is a disease that can leave your body racked with pain. Let us use our experience to help you manage your shingle pain and get back to living the life you deserve.