Chronic, severe pain after shingles — called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) — is a common and major problem. One-third of adults over 60 will eventually develop shingles, and 20% will develop PHN.
"Postherpetic neuralgia can be quite painful and can result in impairment of a person's quality of life that is comparable to people with congestive heart failure, type 2 diabetes or major depression," said a doctor from UCLA who has studied the disease. The good news is that there's something you can do in advance to help prevent PHN. It's all in the vitamins you take. A recent study shows that higher blood levels of three key nutrients can dramatically reduce the risk of developing the condition.
Researchers in Taiwan studied 50 people who had PHN for at least three months, comparing them to 50 healthy people. They found that those with PHN had "significantly lower" levels of calcium, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin B12. In fact, they found that "mild/marginal or severe deficiencies" of nine different nutrients was twice as common in those with PHN. And analyzing their results even further, they found that lower levels of vitamin C, calcium and zinc were linked to a higher risk of developing PHN.
The bottom line is that if you're an older person, then you're at risk for shingles and PHN. And taking a regular multivitamin can help prevent it. (All those nine nutrients, and many more, are found in high levels in a good multivitamin powder.) The new Shingles vaccine, Herpes Zoster vaccine, can also cut the risk of getting shingles in half, but is not recommended for use by people under 60 years old.
"Nutrient deficiencies as a risk factor in Taiwanese patients with postherpetic neuralgia," Chen JY, Chu CC, et al, Br J Nutr, 2011 Sep; 1-6(5): 700-7.