Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a neuropathic pain syndrome. It is characterized by persistent pain (for months to years) after the resolution of the herpes zoster (HZ) rash. Herpes zoster is a clinical condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is a primary chickenpox infection, which remains latent in the body for decades. Reactivation of this varicella virus without rashes can produce neuralgia. The varicella-zoster virus affects the skin, especially the sides of the chest. After a herpes episode, the virus remains silent and dormant in the body’s nerve cells. This virus may become active when the individual’s immunity reduces or during recovery after a significant illness, resulting in blisters on the skin. It is accompanied by a rash that disappears in about two to four weeks without substantial consequences.

Role of homeopathy in post-herpetic neuralgia

Post-herpetic neuralgia occurs when there is persistent and recurrent pain in the area of the body affected by Herpes Zoster virus. Homeopathy is effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of the pain. In some cases, the pain is persistent and present for months or years, even after the herpetic lesions have subsided. Pain persists for more than 90 days and is termed post-herpetic neuralgia. Homeopathy helps in managing the symptoms of post-herpetic neuralgia and provides relief to the individual.

Seven effective homeopathic medicines for post-herpetic neuralgia

Rhus toxicodendron

Common name: Poison-ivy

Rhus tox. is indicated for vesicular eruptions that are yellowish, with a burning sensation. The itching is aggravated by scratching. There is marked restlessness accompanied by fever and tingling sensations.

Arsenicum album

Common name: Arsenious acid

Ars. alb. is prescribed for pains that feel like drawing or burning with a needle-like pricking sensation. The person is anxious, restless, and thirsty. There is very severe burning pain at night. The eruptions have a burning pain and might be covered with fish-like scales. The pain is ameliorated by warm applications and is aggravated by cold air and after midnight.

Hypericum perforatum

Common name: St. John’s-wort

Hypericum is indicated for neuritis with a tingling sensation. Excessive pain with burning and numbness is present. There is shooting pain from the injured part along with back pain due to spinal injury. It is indicated for traumatic neuralgia and neuritis. There is a sensation of crawling in hands and feet.

Prunus spinosa

Common name: Black-thorn

Prunus is indicated for tightness, stitches, and stabbing pain in the chest. Individuals may feel aching pain in the affected area. There is a stitching pain from the loin to the navel that makes you feel breathless. The condition is aggravated by lying on the back.

Mezereum

Common name: Spurge olive

Mezereum is indicated for violent itching and burning with neuralgic pains. The intercostal neuralgia continues after the disappearance of the eruptions. The pain spreads towards the ears at night. Neuralgic pains come and go rapidly, leaving the part numb. There is neuralgia over the left eye, where the pain radiates and shoots downwards. Pain in the face may worsen while eating. There is burning pain and itching at night, and the condition is aggravated by warmth.

Kalmia latifolia

Common name: Mountain laurel

Kalmia is indicated when the neuralgic pains are violent in nature with tearing and shooting types of pain. Pain comes and goes suddenly and is worse during the day and while lying down at night. There are sudden sharp pains and burning, often right-sided, in the supraorbital region. There are vesicular yellowish eruptions, exceedingly painful along with a tired feeling in the masticator muscle. Stitches and tearing in the lower jaw may be felt.

Ranunculus bulbosus

Common name: Buttercup

Ranunculus bulbosus is indicated for post-herpetic neuralgia on the supraorbital (above the eye orbit) region. There are sharp neuralgic pains in intercostal nerves (between the ribs) after herpes zoster. Neuralgic pains are stitching, stabbing, and shooting types. The herpetic eruptions are bluish.

Causative factors for post-herpetic neuralgia

  • Therapies causing severe immunosuppression.
  • Persons with organ transplants, hematopoietic stem cell transplants, immunomodulator therapies, autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease), human immunodeficiency virus, etc.
  • HIV-infection.
  • Delayed pain treatment during the episode of shingles.
  • Age more than 50 years.
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Symptoms of post-herpetic neuralgia

  • Post-herpetic neuralgia pain
  • Burning and itching in the affected part
  • Sharp pain in the nerves
  • Constant pain
  • Scarring of the blisters
  • Hypersensitivity or reduced sensitivity
  • Painful rashes
  • Pain can come and go
  • Rashes progress to clear vesicles, similar to the original chicken pox outbreak
  • Post-herpetic tremors
  • Paralysis

Treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia

Treatment for post-herpetic neuralgia includes anticonvulsants, antidepressants, opioids, and topical therapies like lidocaine and capsaicin. These help in relieving the pain and allow the individual to lead a normal life.

Diet and lifestyle modifications for post-herpetic neuralgia

  • Include whole carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds in your diet.
  • Avoid processed foods, salty treats, and sugary foods.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Stay physically active by exercising daily.

Conclusion

Post-herpetic neuralgia is a painful condition. It causes severe discomfort and can lead to a poor quality of life. With medication and counselling, the individual can lead a normal life. Homeopathy helps provide symptomatic relief from the pain and numbness. Counselling sessions also help in letting the person lead a healthy life.

References