Natural history of herpes zoster: Late follow-up of 3.9 years (n = 43) and 7.7 years (n = 10)

Haatem Reda, Kaitlin Greene, Frank L. Rice, Michael C. Rowbotham, Karin L. Petersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a common complication after herpes zoster (HZ). Subjects who completed a longitudinal observational 6-month study (4 visits) of the natural history of HZ were recontacted for 2 additional follow-up visits that included pain and sensory symptom assessment, quantitative sensory testing, capsaicin response test, and 3-mm punch skin biopsies in HZ-affected, mirror-image, and control skin sites. Forty-three subjects (14 with PHN at 6 months) of the original 94 subjects in the cohort were comprehensively assessed at a median 3.9 years after HZ onset (visit 5), and 10 subjects underwent a final assessment at a median 7.7 years after HZ onset (visit 6). At 3.9 years, none of the 29 subjects who had been pain free at 6 months had a recurrence of pain. Only 2 of the 14 subjects with PHN at 6 months still had pain at 3.9 years. One subject with PHN at 6 months was free of symptoms at 3.9 years but had very mild pain at 7.7 years. Sensory function continued on a path toward normalization, but was still abnormal in many subjects, especially those who met criteria for PHN at 6 months. Even at 7.7 years, reinnervation of HZ-affected skin was not apparent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2227-2233
Number of pages7
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Capsaicin response test Chronic pain Postherpetic neuralgia Quantitative sensory testing Thermal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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