Shingles is a condition caused by the herpes zoster virus, the same virus responsible for chicken pox. After a person has chicken pox, the virus stays in the system but remains dormant in the sensory portion of the nerves.
A shingles rash only forms on the area of skin served by the nerve in which the virus has reactivated. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of the population will get an outbreak of shingles at some time, and the likelihood increases with age. The chances of having shingles at age 80 are three times that of having the condition before age 50.
Shingles pain precedes the appearance of the rash, usually by several days. Typically, four to seven days after the appearance of the skin rash, blisters form which later break open and dry out. The rash phase usually lasts between 14 and 28 days.
Shingles can create severe pain and discomfort for people throughout the rash phase. Many patients find the pain stops when the rash disappears. Unfortunately, about 10 percent of those affected by shingles continue to have severe pain for months, or even years, after the rash has healed. These patients have developed what is known as postherpetic neuralgia.
Positive intervention results are more likely the earlier the medical professionals at Precision Pain Care can see a patient experiencing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia symptoms. Consultation with Dr. Linehan is indicated for patients who do not respond to antiviral medications and who experience mild to severe pain.
Steroid injections into the epidural space in the back are helpful during the stage when skin sores are evident. These injections coat the nerves and cause blood vessels to open. This treatment helps feed the nerves affected by the virus, decrease the pain and shorten the rash’s duration.
Even after the lesions have visibly healed and postherpetic neuralgia has occurred, it is still not too late to perform epidural steroid injections since they can decrease the pain and length of a postherpetic neuralgia outbreak.
If conservative treatments (including medications and epidural steroid injections) fail to adequately reduce a patient’s pain, Dr. Linehan can provide more advanced treatment options, such as spinal cord stimulation.