Postherpetic Neuralgia Diagnosis

Simple PHN Diagnosis

Diagnosing postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is straightforward. Your doctor will examine you, paying special attention to your pain's source, recent medical history, and how you describe the pain.

Since PHN is a complication of shingles, your doctor will certainly ask you if you've had shingles. In order to have had shingles, you must have had chicken pox in the past or been vaccinated against the herpes zoster virus as a child.

The chicken pox virus, herpes varicella-zoster, lives on dormant in the nerve roots. It can come back as shingles, triggered when your immune system is depressed—such as being run down or stressed. The virus never goes away, but shingles infrequently returns more than once.

If you have recently had shingles, your doctor will strongly suspect postherpetic neuralgia right away. If you have pain coming from the skin where your shingles created a rash and blisters, the diagnosis is virtually certain.

Describing Your Symptoms

It's very useful for your doctor if you thoroughly describe the symptoms you're experiencing. This can lead to a good diagnosis. The pain symptoms associated with PHN may include:

  • Aching, burning, or stinging when the temperature changes suddenly
  • Intense irritation with a slight touch of the affected skin
  • Sensations that feel like electric shocks
  • Unbearable itching

Sometimes you may also experience numbness.

While there are other conditions with similar symptoms, misdiagnosing postherpetic neuralgia is very uncommon.

Once your doctor provides you with a postherpetic neuralgia diagnosis, it opens up a number of treatment possibilities. Medications and other remedies will reduce your pain substantially, allowing you to gradually get back to normal. However, complete relief usually takes a few months as your nerves heal and recover from postherpetic neuralgia.

Updated on: 11/06/15
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Postherpetic Neuralgia Treatments