Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chickenpox giving more than just a little Shingles

Most people know that when you get chickenpox as a child (caused by the varicella zoster virus or VZV) you get covered in annoying red spots. Most people also know that these same infected people may also experience shingles later in life: the sometimes life threatening eruption of incredibly painful rashes over the skin. That’s about it

Shingles is generally a disease of the elderly, and not a particularly pleasant disease at that. However, a recent study my Dr. Don Gilden of the Colorado School of Medicine suggests that shingles may not be the only disease that VZV is causing. While the paper does not prove a connection, it suggests that VZV may be a major co-factor.

This disease, a vessel condition known as giant cell arteritis, effects about 1 in 2000 people over the age of 80. With a normal onset in people older that 60, it causes sudden vessel inflammation in the head, neck and arms causing headaches and significant pain. Bad cases lead to stroke, blindness and death.

Usually giant cell arteritis is imperfectly treated with steroids, but the new research suggest that this correlation with VZV might make a synergistic course of anti-virals beneficial to those suffering from this disease. Perhaps, even administering the shingles vaccine could be helpful.




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