Shingles increases the risk of stroke for several years after
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
Shingles: essential facts
People who have had chickenpox can later develop shingles (herpes zoster), when the chickenpox virus re-activates. Shingles causes a painful rash.
Vaccinations for older people
Older people should be vaccinated against influenza, pneumococcal disease and shingles - 3 common but potentially dangerous diseases. Tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough boosters are also recommended.
TIA: transient ischaemic attack
A TIA (transient ischaemic attack), also called a mini-stroke or temporary stroke, is when there is a temporary block in the blood supply to a part of the brain.
Stroke: signs, symptoms and treatment
A stroke occurs when a part of the brain is damaged or destroyed because it is deprived of blood, and therefore oxygen. Ischaemic stroke is the most common.
Vaccination is one of the most important public health measures in the world. Find out how vaccination works and about childhood and adult immunisations.