Shingles may be related to increased risk of multiple sclerosis

By: Devon Andre | Skin Health | Friday, February 26, 2016 - 11:00 AM

shingles multiple sclerosisShingles may be related to an increased risk of multiple sclerosis (MS). The findings came from Taiwanese investigators who found a higher risk of multiple sclerosis during a 12-month follow-up after shingles, or herpes zoster. Common risk factors for multiple sclerosis are genetics, environmental causes, and viral factors.

The researchers looked at 315,550 adults with herpes zoster and 946,650 control participants, tracked and evaluated for 12 months to determine the risk of multiple sclerosis. After adjusting the data, the researchers found that adults with herpes zoster had 3.96 greater risk of multiple sclerosis, compared to the controls. Although there was a risk established, the researchers do report that it is quite low.

While the study is based on an Asian population, it still provides strong epidemiological information. It’s also important to note that Asian populations have a low prevalence of multiple sclerosis, compared to Western societies.

Teresa Corona wrote in an accompanying editorial, “The evidence provided in this study…allows us to better understand the role of these viral factors as an MS risk among certain genetically susceptible individuals.” She suggests the study should be accompanied by data from other parts of the world to help clarify the role of herpes zoster and other viruses in multiple sclerosis.

Other risk factors for shingles

Roughly 25 percent of healthy adults will get shingles in their lifetime, and no one is immune from contracting it. Shingles often appears later in life in a person who has previously had chicken pox. It is important to note that there are vaccines available to help lower the risk of shingles, as it can lead to serious health complications if not treated properly.

Other risk factors for shingles include:

  • Having chicken pox in the past
  • Being over the age of 50
  • Having a weakened immune system, either due to a health problem or being on immunosuppressant medication
  • Experiencing stress or trauma
  • Having cancer or receiving treatment for cancer
  • Taking medications that impact the immune system, like steroids or post-organ transplant medications

Being pregnant and contracting the chickenpox increases the baby’s risk of developing shingles within the first two years of life. If a baby develops chicken pox within the first year, shingles may occur during childhood.

Related Reading:

Senior shingles patients unlikely to have recurrence of painful skin condition

It is unlikely to have a recurrence of shingles – a skin condition – in senior patients, according to researchers at Kaiser Permanente Southern California. The researchers found that seniors who have already experienced the painful skin condition have a low risk of developing it again. Continue reading…

Chicken pox vaccine increases risk of shingles in younger adults

Chicken pox vaccine increases the risk of shingles in younger adults. Shingles and chicken pox are both caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Luckily, there is a vaccine in order to reduce the risk of contracting both conditions. Chicken pox is more commonly seen in children, and shingles is more common in older adults. Continue reading…


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