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Shingles becomes another risk factor for stroke

Jenny Decker RN's picture

On one side of the body, common on the face and other parts of the body, one begins to feel the uncomfortable tingling, intense pain, and itching. It is usually confusing as to what the problem may be, until the rash appears. The blistering appearance is accompanied by numbness and fever, too. Now a new study that will be published in the November issue of the American Heart Association journal Stroke states shingles has become yet another risk factor for stroke.

In the study it was found that those who have shingles in or near the eyes are at an even higher risk for stroke. The herpes zoster virus, the cause of the shingles increases the risk for stroke about 31 percent higher than those who have not had the shingles. Everyone who has had the chicken pox is at risk for developing shingles as the chicken pox virus lies dormant in a person’s body until many years later, stress or a decreased immune system reawakens the virus, causing shingles to develop. The pain from shingles can last for years, writes Reuters.

Shingles causes damage to the walls of blood vessels, causing inflammation. The stroke that occurs is usually an ischemic attack, caused by blocked arteries, writes WebMD. Hemorrhagic strokes are those where there is bleeding into the brain, and these are much less common than ischemic stroke.

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Daniel Lackland, MD, spokesman for the American Stroke Association states that both patients with shingles and their doctors should be on the alert for possible stroke, but he also adds that the risk is not nearly as high as the risk someone has when they are hypertensive. He states that getting blood pressure under control is the most important modifiable factor for stroke.

Signs and symptoms of stroke include the following:

* Sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially if it is localized on one side of the body
* New problems with walking or balance
* Sudden vision changes
* Drooling or slurred speech
* New problems with speaking and understanding a simple statement
* Feeling confused
* Very important: a sudden, severe headache that is genuinely different from other headaches experienced.

If you think you may be having a stroke, call 911 and get to the emergency room as soon as possible.