Once you have had Chicken Pox, the virus remains dormant in your body. Shingles is the reemergence of the Chicken Pox virus in your body and is typically associated with a painful rash. Post-herpetic neuralgia occurs following an acute episode of shingles when the pain does not improve as the rash resolves. .
When these viral particles, which live dormant in the cells of your nervous system, reactivate, they travel down a specific nerve and cause inflammation and damage to that nerve. If this is not treated early the damage becomes permanent and irreversible. The best treatment for post-herpetic neuralgia is prevention, meaning to treat those high-risk patients with acute shingles early and aggressively to prevent the development of post-herpetic neuralgia. Vaccines also exist today and help decrease the incidence of shingles outbreaks. Patients over the age of 65 are at particularly high risk due to the associated vascular disease at that age (the nerve injury is caused in part by reduced blood flow). There are many treatments available for acute herpes zoster to try to prevent it from progressing to a post-herpetic neuralgia. There are some treatments that are effective for treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia after it has been present for an extended period of time.