Long-term nerve pain as a complication of shingles
Shingles is caused by reactivation of the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you have had chickenpox, the virus that caused it does not leave your body but lies dormant in your nerve roots for the rest of your life. It can be reactivated later in life, without you knowing exactly why. It then multiplies and spreads along one or more nerves, which can be damaged in the process. Therefore it is not surprising that neuralgia, long-term nerve pain, is the most common complication of shingles.
The nerve pain associated with shingles can vary in nature. It may be persistent or episodic, be dull, burning or stabbing, or itch or sting. It is not uncommon to experience various types of sensory disturbances in connection with shingles nerve pain, such as hypersensitivity to touch, heat or cold.
Nerve pain as a complication of shingles can be very distressing and can persist for weeks, months or, in the worst cases, even years.
It is unusual for younger individuals to be affected, but 20% of shingles patients aged 50 or over will suffer long term nerve pain after having had shingles, and among the most elderly the figure can be as high as 50%. It is not possible to know in advance how serious shingles will be, but the older someone is when they suffer shingles, the longer the pain tends to last.