A new study has suggested that younger adults who've had shingles may face higher stroke risk years later.
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After people recover from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the nerve roots. In some people, the virus reactivates years later as shingles.
People age 18 to 40 who had shingles were more likely to have a stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack, also called a TIA or warning for a stroke, years later than people who had not had shingles.
People over 40 who had shingles were more likely to have a heart attack or TIA, but not a stroke, than those who had not had shingles.
The study involved 106,600 people who had shingles and 213,200 people of similar ages who did not have shingles. Using a United Kingdom database, researchers reviewed the participants' records for an average of six years after the shingles diagnosis and for as long as 24 years for some participants.
People under 40 years old were 74 percent more likely to have a stroke if they had had shingles, after adjusting for stroke risk factors such as obesity, smoking and high cholesterol.
The numbers were not as large in people over 40. They were 15 percent more likely to have a TIA and 10 percent more likely to have a heart attack if they had shingles.
Study author Judith Breuer , MD, of University College London said that for older people better screening and treatment for stroke risk factors, including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, may explain why they are at lower risk than younger subjects of stroke, TIA and heart-related events following shingles.