Risk of Stroke Spikes Following Shingles Outbreak

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You might never think to associate a painful skin rash with a stroke, but a new study says the risk of stroke significantly increases in the weeks following the first signs of shingles.

Overall, the highest stroke risk occurs during the first month after an outbreak, when patients are 63 percent more likely to have a stroke, Dr. Sinead Langan, senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said. From there, the risk tapers off steadily.

The risk is even higher is patients develop the rash around one or both eyes, according to the report published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Thankfully, Langan says there is a sunny side to the findings.

“We found that the risk of stroke was lower in people who were treated with antiviral medications for their shingles, compared with those not treated with antivirals,” she said. “That hasn’t been shown before, that treating with antivirals might make a difference.”

It is important to note that the study did not prove that shingles can cause a stroke. The research simply shows an association between the viral infection and the chance of stroke occurring.

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