Shingles & Increased Stroke Risk

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How Shingles Increase the Risk of Stroke in Massachusetts

Shingles is a very common medical condition that occurs later in life. Though it’s often seen as painful and unpleasant, shingles isn’t a life-threatening condition in itself. However, new research suggests that shingles increase the risk of stroke in aging adults. For an elderly person who has already experienced a stroke, getting shingles can make a recurrent stroke even more likely. Here’s some information on this correlation and what you can do to reduce your senior loved one’s risk.

How Do Seniors Get Shingles?

Seniors can only get shingles if they’ve previously had chickenpox. The virus that causes chickenpox is called the varicella-zoster virus, and once a person has been infected with it, the virus can remain inactive in nerve tissue for many years. Later, it may become active again and travel to the skin, where it manifests as a painful rash known as shingles. Shingles is very common later in life, and around half of all people over the age of 85 have had shingles.

Shingles is one of many health conditions that are more common among aging adults. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of homecare Wellesley, MA, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

What’s the Link Between Shingles & Strokes?

A study by Dr. Caroline Minassian was published in the journal PLOS Medicine and identified a higher risk of stroke after a person has had shingles. In the study, 351,865 people over the age of 65 who had experienced both shingles and strokes were studied. According to the data, the risk of an ischemic stroke doubled in the first week after a person was diagnosed, and the risk of a myocardial infarction increased by 1.5 times in the same time period. In the month following a shingles diagnosis, senior stroke risk increases by 63 percent. If the shingles rash breaks out around the eyes, seniors are even more likely to experience strokes. The risk lessens significantly six months after the shingles diagnosis. 

It’s likely that inflammation caused by the virus can cause arterial plaques to rupture, resulting in a blood clot in an artery called an arterial thrombosis. The virus can also infect the cells of blood vessels, thus weakening them and increasing their likelihood of clogging. The pain of shingles may also increase blood pressure, further increasing stroke risk for seniors. 

If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, an at-home care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.

How Can You Decrease Your Loved One’s Risk?

The only way to reduce your loved one’s risk of having a stroke resulting from a shingles outbreak is to help him or her avoid getting shingles altogether. There are two vaccines that can greatly reduce a person’s risk of getting shingles, therefore decreasing the risk of a shingles-related stroke. However, if your loved one does experience a shingles outbreak, his or her doctor may administer oral antiviral medications that treat shingles and greatly reduce the risk of a subsequent stroke.

If your loved one develops shingles, consider hiring a professional caregiver to provide assistance with everyday tasks. Whether you need respite from your caregiving duties or your aging loved one needs live-in care, Wellesley, MA, Home Care Assistance can meet your family’s care needs. Our dedicated caregivers are available around the clock to provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, ensure seniors take their prescribed medications, and help with a variety of tasks in and outside the home. To learn more about our reliable, compassionate in-home care services, contact us at (781) 239-0060 today.


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