By the way, doctor: Could postherpetic neuralgia affect my face if I didn't have a rash there?
Q. I'm having pains on the side of my face, and my doctor says that it's postherpetic neuralgia. But I am puzzled because I had a rash on the inside of my arm, but not on my face. Should I be?
A. Postherpetic neuralgia is a painful condition that follows an outbreak of shingles. The medical term for shingles is herpes zoster because the condition is usually caused by a herpes virus. Postherpetic refers to "after herpes," and neuralgia is pain that extends along the course of a nerve.
The particular virus that causes shingles is the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chicken pox. Varicella-zoster infects nerves, including the nerve endings in the skin. After hiding out quietly for many years, it can "reawaken" and cause shingles. The revived infection causes inflammation, which results in pain and a rash that usually looks like multiple small blisters surrounded by redness.