Prospects for the prevention of postherpetic neuralgia in herpes zoster patients

Robert H. Dworkin, Frederick M. Perkins, Elna M. Nagasako

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Scopus citations


Objective: Herpes zoster is a common and painful disease that is caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. Herpes zoster pain that persists after healing of the acute infection is termed postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a chronic pain syndrome that is often refractory to all treatment. The prevalence of PHN is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades, because the incidence of herpes zoster and the risk of PHN will both increase as the population ages. Although the results of recent studies provide a basis for improved treatment of patients with PHN, as many as half of all PHN patients do not obtain relief of their pain. Research on the development of improved treatments is continuing, but it has not been generally recognized that an equally important goal should be the design of interventions to prevent PHN. The prevention of PHN would lead to major reductions in disability, suffering, and the use of health care resources. Design: The results of recent studies that have identified risk factors for the development of PHN and have implicated several peripheral and central mechanisms in its pathophysiology are reviewed. Outcome Measures: These risk factors and mechanisms of PHN provide a basis for hypothesizing that combining antiviral therapy with analgesic treatment beginning as soon as possible after the onset of herpes zoster would reduce the risk of PHN beyond that achieved by antiviral therapy alone. Conclusions: This treatment approach would be expected to reduce the risk of PHN in herpes zoster patients by attenuating acute pain and thereby preventing the initiation of central mechanisms of chronic pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S90-S100
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
Issue number2 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Jun 2000


  • Acute pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Herpes zoster
  • Postherpetic neuralgia
  • Prevention

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