ATLANTA, (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, having shingles may increase the risk of having a stroke.

Shingles is a viral disease that causes a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body, often in a stripe. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus stays in the body after the person recovers from chickenpox. It can be reactivated, years later showing completely different symptoms, as shingles.

According to a press release by the American Academy of Neurology, people age 18-40 who had shingles were more likely to have a stroke, heart attack, or transient ischemic attack years later that people who have not had shingles. People over 40 who had shingles were more likely to have a heart attack, but not a stroke, the press release stated.

Researchers compared the records of 106,600 participants who had shingles and 213,200 people who did not but were of similar age for an average of six years after being diagnosed with shingles.

The study found that the participants under 40 years old were 74 percent more likey to have a stroke if they had shingles.

The study found that people under 40 were 2.4 times more likely to have a TIA if they had shingles and 50 percent more likely to have a heart attack.

The study took obesity, smoking, and high cholesterol into consideration.

“Anyone with shingles, and especially younger people, should be screened for stroke fish factors,” study author Judith Breuer, MD, of University College London said in the news release. “The shingles vaccine has been shown to reduce the number of cases of shingles by about 50 percent. Studies are needed to determine whether vaccination can also reduce the incidence of stroke and heart attack. However, what is also clear is that factors that increase the risk of stroke also increase the risk of shingles, so we do not know if vaccinating people can reduce the risk of stroke per se. Current recommendations are that anyone 60 years and older should be vaccinated. The role for vaccination in younger individuals with vascular risk factors needs to be determined.”

The study was published in an online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.


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