Herpes zoster (HZ) is a disease triggered by the reactivation of latent varicella zoster virus (VZV) in spinal or cranial sensory ganglia, and is characterized by a painful vesicular eruption in the affected dermatome. Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a chronic, neuropathic pain that can persist long beyond resolution of visible cutaneous manifestations which is often resistant to current analgesic treatments. The lifetime prevalence of herpes zoster is approximately 20–30% and about 9–34% of these patients develop PHN depending on its definition. Clinical experience has shown that PHN often develops in cases of inadequate initial pain management resulting in increased pain intensity. This review provides an overview of the treatment options for HZ and PHN, focusing on the therapeutic modalities of pain management. The primary objectives of management of HZ are to inhibit viral replication, relieve pain, and prevent associated complications, such as PHN. General treatments for acute HZ are combination of antiviral therapy with a short course of corticosteroids at the onset of the disease in conjunction with an effective control of acute pain, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, opioids, and anticonvulsants such as gabapentin or pregabalin. Treatment of PHN is often resistant to the current pharmacologic methods. Therefore, a multimodal analgesic treatment regimen including topical lidocaine and capsaicin, systemic therapies, and the interventional treatments is necessary to alleviate pain and its effect on quality of life. As the incidence of HZ increases with age, the number of patients with HZ and PHN may increase in the future considering the gradual aging of the general population. Appropriate management of HZ can reduce the duration and intensity of pain from HZ, and prevent the development of PHN. In addition, prophylactic zoster vaccination can prevent or reduce the incidence of HZ and PHN. Further efforts are needed to minimize pain of the patients suffering from HZ and PHN as it affects the quality of life in the aspect of both physical and psychological impairments.
Part of the book: Pain Management