We have talked about shingles many times on EmpowHER, informing our readers about what do to prevent an outbreak (get vaccinated) and what to do when an outbreak occurs. We have answered many questions about shingles in the ASK/SHARE section in our Community forum.
Now new findings are showing that aside from the awful pain and discomfort this condition brings, shingles may also be instrumental in causing stroke in some people.
Medical News Today reported on a study headed by Dr. Judith Breuer from University College London in the United Kingdom. The study was recently written about in the journal Neurology, from the American Academy of Neurology.
According to her findings, the shingles rash on its own (as opposed to other risk factors like obesity and high cholesterol) can increase the odds of stroke by up to three-quarters, for some people.
Additionally, "people under 40 years of age who had had shingles were 74% more likely to have a stroke than those who had not suffered the rash." People younger than 40 years "were significantly less likely to be asked about vascular risk factors than were older patients" in the study. The study also looked at risk for heart attack. (1)
Somewhat understandably, people under the age of 40 are less likely to be asked about their heart health than an older person, possibly giving a false sense of security to some who may not be aware of findings reported in studies like these. Doctors may need to reconsider their questions for those under 40.
The reason why stroke may happen when a person has shingles is that the varicella-zoster virus that causes shingles as well as chickenpox can affect one part of the facial nerve, then spread to the cerebral arteries, which is the place in the brain that triggers a stroke.
Authors noted that shingles damage to arteries has been found on autopsy in those who did not have a rash at all and in those who had shingles in areas outside of the face.
This study was done over an 8-year period. The patients who had shingles were matched with those who had not in this controlled study.