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Shingles Raises Stroke Risk: Study
Date:10/8/2009

Patients with the virus should be monitored for high blood pressure, expert says

THURSDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Adults with the skin disease shingles appear to be at raised risk for stroke, especially when it affects the area around the eyes, researchers report.

Previous reports have linked shingles with stroke risk, but "the exact frequency and risk for these phenomena are still unknown," said study lead author Dr. Jiunn-Horng Kang, a principal investigator in the Neuroscience Research Center of Taipei Medical University Hospital, Taiwan. His team published their findings in the November issue of Stroke.

"Our study is the first to explore these issues with a nationwide population-based data," Kang said.

Shingles is a painful skin rash resulting from infection by the varicella zoster virus, which causes chickenpox. The virus remains in the body after recovery from chickenpox and can erupt again to cause shingles.

Kang and his colleagues studied data on 7,760 adult Taiwanese who were treated for shingles between 1997 and 2001. In the year after treatment, 133 of them, or1.7 percent, had strokes. The incidence in a control group of 23,280 adults who were not treated for shingles was 1.3 percent (306 people).

Analysis of the data found that the risk of stroke in that one-year period was 31 percent higher in the shingles group. The incidence was dramatically higher for those with a shingles infection in or around the eye -- nearly 4.3 times higher than in the control group.

Strokes can be ischemic, caused by a blood clot blocking a brain artery, or hemorrhagic, due to rupture of a blood vessel. The study found a 31 percent higher incidence of ischemic strokes, the most common kind, and a 2.79-times higher incidence of hemorrhagic stroke in the shingles group.

"The major mechanism of our findings is that stroke results from herpes zoster virus-induced vasculopathy [
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