Postherpetic Neuralgia, or PHN, is the most common complication of the shingles virus. PHN is a chronic pain response to the virus lasting more than three months. PHN carries with it a debilitating level of pain, impaired mobility, and physical function. While there are vaccines that reduce the risk of complication and in some cases, lessen symptom severity until now there has been no safe or reliably effective treatment option for shingles pain and PHN. However, recent research and clinical trials have identified an exciting new treatment option that shows great promise in the management of PHN symptoms.
New Treatments for Pain
For PHN affecting the torso, a new treatment consists of an injection beneath the skin’s surface of a solution consisting of lidocaine, epinephrine, and an antiviral known as acyclovir. The lidocaine acts as a local anesthesia, numbing the site. The epinephrine constricts the swollen capillaries, while the antiviral works to break down the viral cause of shingles itself. While this does not equate to a cure as of yet, this solution provides effective and safe symptom management. Most importantly, it works quickly to reduce pain and ulceration at the source. Studies have shown great efficacy, with nearly 100% of treated patients reporting immediate and comprehensive pain relief. The lidocaine (numbing) effect lasts between 18-36 hours following application, which is more than enough time for the other active ingredients to do their job.
For the best possible results, researchers recommend two or three consecutive treatments spread out at intervals of 48 to 96 hours apart. The majority of patients polled reported a prolonged duration of symptom management with a decreased level of pain. This is most likely the result of the effects of the antiviral agents present. While researchers note that it is too early in clinical trials to call this treatment a “cure” for shingles or PHN, or at least define it as a permanent one, the initial clinical trials offer a promising future for this treatment option. The treatment of PHN located in the face and neck area has only limited research, as this procedure is similar in nature to liposuction in terms of the way the solution is administered within the body, and the skin of this area is much more sensitive and thin. However, this procedure is quite non-invasive and relatively painless in nature. The treatment of facial PHN is indeed possible, but it requires a more careful approach and the application method uses a modified technique and is individualized for each patient. In the limited clinical testing required to establish efficacy, researchers have noted that the subcutaneous (beneath the skin’s surface) application of acyclovir (antiviral) to treat PHN and shingles-related pain symptoms is both safe and effective. Even after over 8,000 successful cases, there have been no significant complications.