Shingles infection 'elevates stroke risk nearly a third'

People who develop shingles are 30 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who have not had the infection, Taiwanese research has found.

Shingles: a possible risk factor
Shingles: a possible risk factor

While previous studies have highlighted the link, the researchers say that this is the first to demonstrate the actual risk of stroke following herpes zoster infection.

This latest study involved 7,760 patients who had received treatment for herpes zoster between 1997 and 2001 and a control group of 23,280 adults who did not have shingles.

The participants were followed for a year, during which time 1.7 per cent of patients in the shingles group went on to suffer a stroke.

After adjusting for other risk factors, such as hypertension and diabetes, the researchers found that patients treated for shingles were 31 per cent more likely to have a stroke compared with patients without shingles.

Patients with shingles infections involving the skin around the eye and the eye itself were 4.28 times more likely to have a stroke than patients without shingles.

The risk of haemorrhagic bleeding was also 2.79 times higher among patients with shingles.

Lead researcher Dr Jiunn-Horng Kang, from Taipei Medical University, said: 'While the mechanism by which shingles increases stroke risk remains unclear, the possibility of developing a stroke after a shingles attack should not be overlooked.'

Doctors and patients must pay extra attention to controlling other risk factors for stroke, such as high BP, smoking and diabetes, said Dr Kang.

He added that the severe pain and stress that is associated with shingles could explain the increased risk of stroke.


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