HAVING a common but debilitating skin disorder could increase your chance a killer heart attack, scientists have discovered.
Experts in the US found that developing shingles leaves people with an elevated risk of a heart attack for up to 12 or more years after the rash first appears.
The study of over 200,000 people has shown that those who develop the nasty rash are 30 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those who don't.
Those who had suffered from the viral infection had a greater chance of having a heart attack for up to 16 years after the rash first appeared, when compared to those who hadn't had the virus.
Shingles also increased the risk of stroke or coronary artery disease by a third, researchers found.
Dr Sharon Curhan, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, US who led the study said further research into an effective jab is vital.
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"Given the growing number of Americans at risk for this painful and often disabling disease and the availability of an effective vaccine, shingles vaccination could provide a valuable opportunity to reduce the burden of shingles and reduce the risk of subsequent cardiovascular complications," she said.
The virus sits in blood vessels and causes inflammation which can heighten a person’s risk of blood vessel blockages and blood flow restriction, the researchers said
Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus – otherwise known as the varicella zoster virus – which can remain dormant inside the roots of nerve cells.
Most people over 50 will be carrying the virus, according to the NHS.
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Years after recovering from chickenpox it can resurface and cause the condition, causing a rash that is painful and itchy to touch.
Dr Sharon and her colleagues, who's findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, studied the health data of 205,030 men and women.
They followed the patients for up to 16 years, checking in every two years to see if any were at a higher risk of having a stroke or developing heart disease after a shingles outbreak.
What are the symptoms of shingles and what does the rash look like?
According to the NHS, the most common first signs of shingles are tingling or pains in patches of the skin.
Headaches are also the first symptoms to appear.
A rash can then start to crop up, usually on the chest or stomach — but it can also appear on the face, eyes and genitals, according to the NHS.
A shingles rash appears as red blotches on your skin, on one side of your body only.
So it's important to know a rash on both the left and right of your body is unlikely to be shingles.
The blotches become itchy blisters that ooze fluid, before the blisters dry out and scab a few days later.
The rash can form a band that only appears on one side of your body.
It can often be painful until after the rash has gone.
You should speak to a GP as soon as you suspect you have shingles as medication can speed up recovery.
This works best if it's taken within three days of symptoms starting.
However it's best to have an appointment over the phone, to avoid coming into contact with someone more vulnerable.
Is shingles contagious?
Shingles are contagious while the rash oozes fluid — but you can’t get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox.
You can get chickenpox from someone with shingles, if you haven’t had chickenpox before.
If you're pregnant and you get shingles it shouldn't be a problem, but tell your GP anyway.
The NHS recommends avoiding contact with:
- pregnant women who have not had chickenpox before
- people with a weakened immune system, such as someone having chemotherapy
- babies less than one-month-old (unless it is your own baby, as they should be protected from the virus by your immune system)
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