Shingles Linked to Increase in Strokes


According to a recent study released by Britain’s National Health Service, people who suffer from shingles also run an increased risk of suffering strokes and heart attacks later in their lives.

Shingles is a painful disease caused by the chickenpox virus.  People who have been infected with chickenpox are carriers of the herpes zoster virus which can lie dormant for the rest of their lives.

The shingles virus is activated by many different factors, such as age, stress, or weakened immune systems.  The shingles virus most often attacks adults over the age of 60.

The recent study focused on the effects of shingles on younger victims.  For victims under 40 an attack of shingles raised their chances of having a stroke by 74 percent.  Older victims also showed an increase in strokes, heart attacks and temporary strokes called transient ischemic attacks (TIAs).

Other studies have been performed concerning shingles.  A 2009 study that was reported in a journal of the American Heart Association stated that sufferers of shingles who developed severe rashes on their faces increased their odds of suffering a stroke by 30 percent.

Shingles is a painful skin rash that develops blisters.  The blisters can last two to four weeks.  Shingles can have long term effects as some people develop painful nerve pain that can last up to years after the initial attack.  This symptom is referred to as post-herpetic neuralgia.

Early symptoms of shingles can include headaches, a sensitivity to light, and flu-like symptoms without a fever being present.

The trademark rash develops after a few days of the early symptoms.  Some victims do not develop rashes, while others have severe rashes that may lead to scarring.

The intense pain accompanying the other symptoms has been compared to either childbirth or kidney stones.  The pain can be debilitating and interfere with patient’s quality of life, as well as mask symptoms of other diseases.

Other symptoms can include depression due to the pain, weight loss, and loss of appetite, anxiety, and eye problems due to the infections.

Shingles is usually diagnosed by the symptoms and appearance of the blisters of the rash.  It is normally treated with antiviral medications such as acyclovir and valacyclovir.  In order for the medicine to be effective, it must be started as soon as the rash shows.

Pain medicine is also prescribed for the outbreaks.  Pain may also be managed by using wet compresses and calamine lotion.

Shingles is not contagious from person to person; however a person with shingles can infect a person who has never had chicken pox with the original virus, resulting in the chicken pox.  There have also been reported cases of people having an outbreak of shingles after being inoculated with the chicken pox vaccine.

People who are infected with shingles are encouraged to keep blisters covered, and to avoid contact with people who have never had chicken pox, as well as pregnant women.  People with outbreaks are encouraged to wash their hands frequently to reduce contamination.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that over one million cases of shingles occur each year, and states that one-third of the US adult population will contract the disease.

A vaccine for shingles is available for individuals who are 60 and older.  The CDC does not recommend the vaccine for anyone under the age of 50. People who are allergic to neomycin or have weakened immune systems due to either HIV or certain types of cancer should not take the vaccine.


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