Shingles: Exploring the Possible Complications and Research Prospects

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Shingles, a painful skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus, can result in various complications, some of which may not be immediately evident. While many people are familiar with the characteristic rash, not everyone is aware of the potential for more severe outcomes such as hearing problems, pneumonia, and rarely, death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of shingles-related deaths is estimated to be less than 100 per year.

Shingles and Cardiovascular Complications

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2022 has brought to light new information about the potential long-term effects of shingles. The study, led by author Curhan, discovered a link between shingles and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke by nearly 30%. These findings indicate that the virus may cause damage to blood vessels, a complication that was not widely recognized until now.

Further Research Required

This groundbreaking study was conducted prior to the widespread availability of the Shingrix vaccine. Hence, it is necessary to conduct further research to determine whether this vaccine can provide protection against these significant cardiovascular risks. Currently, the Shingrix vaccine is recommended for preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia, a painful condition that can occur after shingles.

Shingles in Psoriatic Arthritis Patients

In related news, a separate study assessed the risk of herpes zoster (shingles) in patients with spondyloarthropathy (SpA), which includes psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Interestingly, the study found that PsA patients had a higher incidence rate of shingles compared to the general population. Additionally, Jak-I treatment was associated with a higher risk of developing new-onset shingles. However, no connection was found between the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and new-onset shingles among patients with SpA.