Shingles has been identified by infectious disease researchers as a persistent risk factor for stroke.

Their study shows that infection with herpes zoster (the virus that causes shingles)  not only raises the risk of ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke but also that of a transient ischaemic attack (TIA).

The 11-year study of almost 800,000 Korean adults also shows those diagnosed with shingles have a 2-fold risk of TIA or full-blown stroke, and the risk persists for several years.

The risk after infection is highest in the youngest group of 18-to-30-year olds.

“Herpes zoster infection in young people occurs against a background of few other traditional risk factors for stroke, so this is not really a surprise,” says co-author Dr Sung-Han Kim from the University of Ulsan College of Medicine in Seoul.

“However, it is interesting and more unexpected that the increased stroke risk that followed herpes zoster infection lasted for several years. We found people to be more at risk of stroke for a long period after infection, even when we adjusted for other known stroke risk factors.”

This suggests that infection with this virus is an independent risk factor in stroke pathogenesis that changes the lifetime set point of stroke/TIA risk, write the authors in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

However, they say further work will be necessary to investigate the underlying pathological mechanisms.

The authors suggest that the most important question raised by their study is whether more aggressive antiviral treatment could prevent death and serious disability in younger people who succumb to shingles

Last Reviewed: 05/07/2016



Risk of stroke and transient ischaemic attack after herpes zoster. Clinical Microbiol & Infection