New research has shown that shingles is a risk factor for TIA and stroke.
This increased risk is independent of other stroke risk factors such as hypternsions, smoking and high cholesterol.
People under 40 years of age who had had shingles were 74% more likely to have a stroke than those who had not.
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (chicknepox). The infection lies dormant in nerve roots, but when reactivated leads to a painful skin rash followed in some cases devastating post herpetic neuralgia
Current recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are that anyone aged 60 years and older receives the herpes zoster vaccine.
The role for vaccination in younger individuals with vascular risk factors, and whether this can reduce stroke risk, has yet to be determined.
How could shingles cause stoke? For cases where the rash involves the head and neck have led to virus spread into the cerebral arteries via the trigeminal nerve, leading to arthritis and stroke. For other cases, the mechanism is unknown.
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