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Skin Therapy Lett. 2004 Oct;9(8):1-4.

Treatment of postherpetic neuralgia.

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  • 1University of Texas, Health Sciences Center, Houston, Texas, USA.


Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a serious complication of herpes zoster that has a predilection for older individuals. PHN is often associated with significant morbidity, and it can cause insomnia, fatigue, depression and interference with daily activities in affected individuals. Treatment for PHN is initiated with antivirals during the acute herpes zoster outbreak. Acyclovir (Zoviraxr, GlaxoSmithKline), valacyclovir (Valtrex, GlaxoSmithKline) or famciclovir (Famvir, Novartis) can be used to treat herpes zoster, and all three have been shown to reduce the duration of the herpetic rash and zoster-associated pain. These antivirals are most effective when used within the first 72 hours of the onset of the rash. Side-effects of these antivirals are low and include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and headache. Other treatment options for PHN include topical analgesics, opioid analgesics, tricyclic antidepressants and gabapentin. Because of the complexity of PHN, most patients require a combination of treatment modalities for adequate pain relief.

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