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Stroke Risk Is Higher After Shingles, Study Finds

Update Date: Apr 03, 2014 12:09 PM EDT
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Following the first signs of shingles, there is an increased risk of stroke but antiviral drugs do offer some protection, according to a new study. 

The study states that patients suffering from shingles have higher risk in the first six months after appearance of the first shingles symptoms. The risk is elevated in patients who have a rash near their eyes. 

Shingles is cause by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The disease has become a significant health problem and is affecting more than 1 million adults in U.S. and around 90,000 adults in the U.K. every year. The disease strikes back when the virus named varicella-zoster remains dormant in the body and reactivates later in life.

Around 6,500 patients were included in the study. Researchers compared the risk of stroke in the time period after the patient showed symptoms of the shingles to time periods when there were no signs of it. The calculated that stroke rate was 63 percent higher in the first four weeks after shingles episode compared to the patient's baseline risk. The percentage diminished slowly up to 6 months later.

"The relatively low prescribing rates of antiviral therapy in U.K. general practice after developing shingles need to be improved," said Sinéad Langan, MD, PhD, at the  London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in the press release, "as our study suggests that stroke risks following shingles are lower in those treated with oral antiviral therapy compared to individuals not treated with antiviral therapy."

The study has been published online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases

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