Besides a painful and unsightly skin rash, herpes zoster or shingles can cause ongoing nerve pain and even vision damage. Those unwelcome symptoms and complications should be enough to convince you to get the shingles vaccine if you’re 60 or older. Now, two British research teams have discovered another reason. Stroke chances rise after having shingles.
Young Adults Experience Highest Rate
Study subjects younger than age 40 had 74 percent greater odds of suffering strokes after having shingles, according tofindingsthat the Neurology journal published online. University College of London investigators compared data on over 100,000 shingles patients to more than 200,000 others of the same ages who hadn’t experienced either condition.
Other London researchersfound that stroke risks increased when older subjects had shingles and declined gradually over six months. Epidemiologists used a huge database containing the comprehensive medical records of eight percent of the British population to identify 6,584 people who had experienced both the shingles and strokes from 1987 to 2012. Because shingles occurs typically with advanced age, most subjects were over 70 with a median age of 77.
During the first four weeks following shingles diagnoses, the highest stroke rate of 63 percent occurred. In the fifth through 12th weeks, stroke likelihood was 42 percent. It fell to 23 percent for the 13th through 26th weeks. Dr. Sinead Langan, the lead author, reported no elevated risks after that point. Stroke odds were even greater among the limited patients whose shingles affected their eyes. Inflammation that occurs with viral infections or blood vessel damage could have led to participants’ strokes.
Treatments Brings Relief
If you had the chickenpox, the herpes zoster virus may cause shingles. According to the Mayo Clinic, this condition begins as tingling, prickling, or itching skin. It erupts into a burning, red inflamed rash that resembles poison ivy after several days. Groups or long strips of fluid-filled blisters tend to wrap around one side of the body. They can pop and become crusty. The pain can be deep, intense, searing, burning, stabbing, or aching.
Acyclovir, a common shingles medication, is an antiviral drug that comes in oral, cream, and ointment forms. The Lidoderm Patch alleviates shingles symptoms including soreness, itchiness, irritation, and other skin damage signs. Its anesthetic properties numb treated areas to promote relief. Also discuss your stroke risk with your doctor to be safe. He may prescribe Crestor(Rosuvastatin) to prevent a major or deadly stroke if your cholesterol is too high.
Shingles Vaccine and Antiviral Drugs Offer Dual Benefits
For years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended shingles vaccinations for older residents without suppressed immune systems. While inoculation doesn’t prevent shingles by 100 percent, it can reduce your risk by about 50 percent and decrease your nerve pain odds even more. If you do get shingles after immunization, it should reduce your symptom severity and chances of complications.
The latest immunization statistics from 2012 are disappointing, compared to other preventative vaccines. They indicate that just 20 percent of Americans older than 60 have gotten shingles Zostavax vaccines while 66 percent of people over 65 have received flu shots, and 60 percent have gotten pneumonia vaccinations.
In 2010, the stroke rate for all adult Americans was 2.6 percent. Among those older than 65, it was 8.3 percent. Langan’s study found that antiviral shingles medications reduced strokes among the 55 percent of subjects who took them. She notes that both shingles vaccinations and antiviral treatments have the potential to reduce stroke chances.
Stroke Requires Emergency Care
Anyone can have a stroke. Knowing the symptoms and acting quickly can help you recover without lasting deficits. You need to seek prompt treatment within just three hours of a stroke. Unfortunately, a study found that around 70 percent of people don’t realize they’re undergoing minor strokes while 30 percent fail to seek medical care for over 24 hours.
Because you could be unable to obtain help on your own, be sure that your loved ones are familiar with the warning signs. Prompt medical intervention can help protect you from long-term consequences and death. Dr. Mark Alberts, M.D., and stroke victims advise calling 911 or rushing to the emergency room if you experience any of these common symptoms:
Speaking difficulties. You might struggle to find words, have slurred speech, mumble, or be unable to talk or respond.
Trouble comprehending other people’s spoken communication
Forgetfulness or memory loss. Basic everyday tasks like starting the coffeemaker or using the TV remote can become too challenging.
Weakness or numbness on just one side of your body, particularly when it strikes suddenly. A stroke can make your face or mouth droop on one side and prevent you from moving one arm or leg.
Clumsiness on the weak side of your body, mainly when this occurs rapidly. Unsteady limbs may cause you to stumble or fall.
Double vision or inability to focus on people or objects
An abrupt and severely excruciating headache for no apparent reason
Being aware of what’s happening but unable to stop it