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A Warning About Shingles

October 12, 2009
A relationship between shingles and diseases of the blood vessels has been suspected, and a recent study has now documented the frequency and risk of stroke after experiencing a recurrence of the virus responsible for chickenpox—the varicella zoster virus typically lies dormant after the original childhood infection and can be reactivated by stress or trauma, causing a painful skin outbreak characterized by blisters. Research conducted by Dr. Herng-Ching Lin of Taipei Medical University in Taiwan and colleagues involved a nationwide,population-based retrospective study of 7760 patients who received treatment for shingles. Their rate of stroke was compared to that of 23,280 randomly selected subjects. Their findings show that having shingles raises the risk of stroke during the year following the shingles episode by just over 30 percent. According to their study, which is published in the current issue of Stroke, the varicella zoster virus is the only human virus known to replicate in the arteries in the brain, possibly spreading along the nerve fibers to the blood vessels and causing inflammation and blood clots. It is important to talk to your doctor about shingles, whether or not you had it as a child, and if the available vaccine is an option for you.