Topical Anesthetics Help Relieve Postherpetic Neuralgia
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Almost one in three people will have shingles at some point in their lives.
Years after a first encounter with chickenpox, the virus can be reactivated in the form of shingles, and will typically include a painful, itchy rash.
Even after the rash fades, a small percentage of people who have had shingles will develop postherpetic neuralgia, or pain at the rash site even after the treatment has been finished and the rash disappears.
Postherpetic neuralgia is a long-term condition that can flare in times of stress or when the body's immune system is suppressed.
Topical lidocaine creams and ointments are one of several treatment options available for shingles and posthperpetic neuralgia along with anti-inflammatory medications, oral pain relievers, and antihistamines for itching.
Anesthetic creams block the transmission of pain signals as they travel along the sensory nervous system, relieving the pain.
It's recommended that anyone using lidocaine creams take care to avoid injury to the area. Inability to feel pain in the area and loss of sensation can lead to unintended injury.
When using lidocaine numbing creams, it's best to avoid open wounds, cuts, and sores, as open skin allows lidocaine to absorb much quicker into the body.
If lidocaine creams are used on open skin, keep an eye on side effects such as:
- skin rashes
- trouble breathing
- dizziness and drowiness
- fever and chills
In the case of mild symptoms, notify your doctor, but if symptoms persist or worsen, it's best to go to the emergency room.
Lidocaine creams and ointments can be used on the skin, but should never be used in or around the eyes.
Medications can also be used to treat postherpetic neuralgia, including antidepressants like nortriptyline, amitriptyline, and duloxetine. These medications block absorption of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin into nerve cells, making more of these chemicals available in the brain, which lessens pain.
Combination treatment can be used, but only under the direction of a specialist. If you're considering using topical anesthetics along with oral pain relief and/or antidepressant medication, please notify your doctor and ask about any interactions with your current medications.
Postherpetic neuralgia may be a long-term, persistent issue, but with tools at your disposal such as topical anesthetics and medications, the pain can be managed, allowing for more activities and a fuller life.