From Geriatric Pharmacy Intern Dana Ross Pharm.D. (c) Palm Beach Atlantic University School of Pharmacy
Shingles, among stroke risk factors such as tobacco use, hypertension, or high blood pressure, and diabetes has shown increased chance of stroke. Investigators found shingles, an infection of herpes zoster, to be a risk factor for stroke. Shingles is caused by varicella zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. It manifests as a painful, tingling rash that begins as a blistered rash unilaterally, or one side of the body. This rash typically scabs in about five days and clears within four weeks, sometimes two weeks. When people get the chickenpox the virus stays in the cells and for most people it does not resurface, but for some it will reoccur and cause shingles. The study looking at 7,760 patients with a history of shingles and 23,280 patients without a history of shingles found people with a history of shingles had a risk of stroke 30% higher than those without. The risk was quadrupled when the infection was near and involving the eye. The participants with average age 47 were followed up after 12 months after treatment for shingles. It was found that 1.7% of patients with history of shingles had a stroke and 1.3% of controls (those with no history of shingles) had a stroke. Patients had a 31% greater chance to have a stroke if they had a history of shingles. It was also found that those with the infection in the eye and near the eye were 4.28 times greater chance for stroke. These findings uncovered an emerging risk factor for stroke that is a step further for stroke prevention and management. Attention should be paid to patients with history of shingles and other stroke risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and tobacco use.