The signs and symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia are generally limited to the area of your skin where the shingles outbreak first occurred — most commonly in a band around your trunk, usually on just one side of your body.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain. The pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia most commonly has been described as burning, sharp and jabbing, or deep and aching.
  • Sensitivity to light touch. People who have postherpetic neuralgia often cannot bear even the touch of clothing on the affected skin, a condition called allodynia.
  • Itching and numbness. Less commonly, postherpetic neuralgia can produce an itchy feeling or numbness.
  • Weakness or paralysis. In rare cases, you might also experience muscle weakness or paralysis if the nerves involved also control muscle movement.

When to see a doctor

See a doctor at the first sign of shingles. Often the pain starts before you notice a rash. Your risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia is cut in half if you begin taking antiviral medications within 72 hours of developing the shingles rash. While steroids are sometimes prescribed for a more rapid resolution of the shingles rash and to provide short-term pain relief, their role in preventing postherpetic neuralgia has not been proved.

Nov. 13, 2012