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Shingles can cause long-lasting nerve damage
that can persist for months or even years1

There is no way to know when shingles will strike.2

Personal Stories

The following Australians have shared their personal experience with shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

Elizabeth Wallan, VIC
“I have suffered from chronic pain for nearly 10 years now and wish I could have just one day without the pain. It started as a sharp pain below my sternum that tracked across the nerve line on the right-hand side of my body and still persists to this day.

I am able to manage with the pain on a daily basis; however there have been times over the years when I’ve cried because I would like just one day without pain. Mostly the pain is bearable and in the background, but sometimes I get a sharp stabbing pain or ‘knotting’ of the muscle, that comes on without warning and I don’t know what triggers it.”

Patient experiences may vary

This has been 18 months,
18 months of ongoing, never ending pain...
At the moment I’ve got a blow torch running through my hip, and running right down my leg. It’s there constantly, and it’s painful and that’s with medications.
SHARLENE, KORUMBURRA, VIC

What is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)?1,2

  • Shingles blisters can appear as a 'band' on the body, usually around the torso area
    Pain for a period of 3 months or longer following the shingles rash is defined as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
  • Shingles is a painful rash that can cause red blisters and pain that can continue after the rash disappears (which is known as post herpetic neuralgia.)
    It is a debilitating pain which can develop from damage to the nerves caused by the varicella zoster virus, which causes shingles.
  • Shingles complications are most common in the elderly
    PHN is the most common complication of shingles.
  • Shingles sometimes causes flu like symptoms in the days before the rash appears.
    PHN is difficult to treat and can last for months or even years, long after the shingles rash has healed.

What is the pain from PHN feel like?

  • Shingles pain can vary from mild to severe.
    The pain can vary from mild to severe.
  • Up to 90% of people with PHN experience allodynia, where light touch such as wearing clothes or the weight of a blanket in bed causes pain.1
  • Pain from post herpetic neuralgia can impact your social life, daily activities, and your sleep.
    PHN pain can impact every aspect of life, an Australian survey of PHN found that:3
    • 2 in 3 people reduced or stopped socialising
    • Almost 1 in 3 people had difficulty with simple activities such as getting dressed
    • Sleep was also impacted.

Pain due to nerve damage (PHN) is different to other types of pain and is often described as:

The most frequent debilitating complication of shingles is post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) - pain that continues after the rash has healed
Shingles can cause throbbing pain due to nerve damage. Shingles can cause burning pain due to nerve damage. Shingles can cause numbness due to nerve damage. Shingles can cause an electirc shock sensation due to nerve damage Shingles rash can be itchy. Shingles can cause a sharp stabbing pain due to nerve damage.

Who is at risk of developing PHN?

  • Up to 20% of shingles sufferers may go on to experience post herpetic neuralgia, which may last for months, even years
    Up to 1 in 6 shingles sufferers aged 70-79 may develop PHN. 4
  • Shingles complications are most common in the elderly
    Risk and severity increases with age.
  • For more information about shingles and PHN please talk to your doctor.

 

References:

  1. Oxman MN et al. In: Arvin AM et al., editors. Varicella-Zoster Virus: Virology and Clinical Management.2000. p246–75
  2. NCIRS Herpes Zoster Fact Sheet. March 2020. Available at: http://www.ncirs.org.au/ncirs-fact-sheets-faqs/zoster-vaccine-australian-adults
  3. Hall and Partners. 'It's Not 'Just' Shingles' Patient Survey. Oct 2012.
  4. Stein et al. Vaccine 2009;27:520-9

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AND TREATMENT OPTIONS

Shingles Information & Resources

For further information about shingles and its complications such as PHN download the following resources:

How common is shingles? How to prevent shingles virus. Shingles information leaflet

Shingles Audio Information