Antiviral treatment for shingles lowers risk of stroke and myocardial infarction

When shingles develops, active treatment with antiviral drugs can lower the risk of various complications. Hankook Ilbo file photo

Active antiviral treatment after the onset of herpes zoster reduces the risk of serious complications such as stroke and myocardial infarction, a study has found.

A joint research team led by Professor Kyung-Yeol Lee of Neurology at Gangnam Severance Hospital and Professor Jin-Kwon Kim of Neurology at Yongin Severance Hospital analyzed 84,993 patients treated for herpes zoster between 2003 and 2014 in the antiviral treatment group (76,910) and the non-treatment group (8,083). This is the result of analyzing the incidence rate of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease complications.

Shingles is a common disease that affects more than 20% of the population. Varicella zoster virus, which causes chickenpox between the ages of 2 and 10 years, is the cause. After getting chickenpox as a child, the virus is dormant in nerve cells, and when immunity is weakened, it resumes activity and spreads around the nerve, causing herpes zoster.

Although it is commonly known as a disease that causes skin rash and extreme pain, if the shingles virus directly penetrates into the blood vessels of the brain, it can lead to serious diseases such as stroke or myocardial infarction.

As a result of the study, the group of patients who received antiviral treatment early after diagnosis of herpes zoster had an 11% lower risk of myocardial infarction than the group who did not. The risk of stroke was also reduced by 20%.

Professor Kim Jin-kwon said, “It is known that antiviral drugs effectively prevent complications of skin lesions and neuralgia caused by herpes zoster, but it is not well known whether they reduce the complications of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases associated with herpes zoster. There is,” he said.

Professor Lee Kyung-yeol said, “When shingles appears, it is necessary to prevent serious complications by actively implementing antiviral treatment, rather than dismissing it as a simple pain or skin disease.”

The research results were published in the latest issue of the international academic journal “Clinical Infectious Diseases.”

Kwon Dae-ik medical journalist


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