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Post-Herpetic Neuralgia is due to changes in the nervous system produced by the varicella virus. Scientists do not understand the specifics of these processes. It is known that nerve injury can change nerve cells such that they discharge spontaneously, are activated more easily, and show exaggerated responses to stimuli. Nerve regrowth after the injury produces new nerve endings that are also prone to unprovoked discharge. The excessive activity is thought to lead to hyperexcitability of the portion of the spinal cord that contains the cell bodies of the sensory neurons. This results in altered central nervous system signal processing and exaggerated central nervous system responses to all input (Kost, 1996). In addition, the attack by the virus leads to the release of chemical mediators of inflammation. Chronic inflammation can develop, producing irritable sensory receptors as well (Rowbotham, 1999, 2001).



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