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Shingles: Are You Risking Nerve Pain?

Have Shingles? Get Treatment, Take Action

If you have shingles, it's important to talk to your doctor about your risk for developing PHN. Ask whether preventative treatment with antiviral drugs makes sense. If your doctor says it's not necessary, ask why.

The full implications of the psychological risk factors for PHN aren't clear yet, says Dworkin. But he suggests that people with shingles should try to stay active and connected.

"If psychological distress is a risk factor for PHN," he says, "then we think that people who have shingles might benefit from getting out and not being isolated and homebound."

You might make an effort to stay connected to family and friends and not to dwell on your symptoms. Also, keep in mind that even if you do develop PHN, there are treatments that can help.

"We have about a half dozen types of drugs that are used as first-line treatments for PHN," says Dworkin. They include lidocaine patch (Lidoderm), pregabalin (Lyrica), gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant), capsaicin (Qutenza, Zostrix cream), carbamazepine (Tegretol), tricyclic antidepressants, and painkillers. 

The most important thing is to get prompt medical attention if you think you might have shingles.

"If you have a one-sided rash -- especially if you're over 50 -- see your doctor right away," says Dworkin. "It could be shingles. And we know that prompt treatment can dramatically reduce the likelihood of developing long-term pain."

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 04, 2014

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