Chickenpox, Shingles virus linked to another serious condition in seniors

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20Published: Feb 20, 2015

The virus named Varicella Zoster is responsible for both chickenpox and shingles. The difference is that chickenpox attacks early in the life and after suffering from chicken pox, some of the virus remains in some of body’s nerve in a dormant form for years. Later in life, this virus gets activated and leads to shingles, which is more chronic condition than Chickenpox.

Recently, one of the studies stated that this same virus is also responsible for other health problems like giant cell arterities. And this medical condition mostly attacks old people of the age group 60-80 years. It leads to inflammation of arteries, which in turn leads to pain in head, muscles, jaws and can also lead to serious problems like heart stroke, visual disability or even fatal death.

Shingles causes

Some studies still disagrees with this belief, but Dr. Don Gilden, professor of neurology found in his studies that the usual treatment of steroid for treating Giant cell arterities was not effective on some of the patients with same medical condition. Based on this he proposed that viruses, who causes Chickenpox and shingles were interfering with this line of treatment.

Some researchers also performed biopsy of 95 arterities, which were collected from patients who lead to death due to Giant cell arterities. And their findings suggested that around 74% of patients were having signs of Varicella Zoster virus. They also performed biopsy of patient’s arteries, who were not suffering from this medical condition and only 8% were having sign of virus.

As per the statistics presented by Gilden, around 30 in 100,000 people are affected by Giant cell arterities and as per Dr. Moster, a professor of Ophthalmology and neurology, in age group of 80; this diseases affects one out of 2000 people in a year.

So, Dr. Gilden suggested that medication should be such that inflammation of arteries gets reduced and viruses are also been killed. Thus steroids along with antiviral medicine will be the most effective line of treatment for treating Giant cell arterities caused due to virus.

Chickenpox and shingles vaccines are also available and it is also considered as the one of the best precautionary treatment. But there are no evidences that whether viral vaccines are helpful in preventing Giant cell arterities. Still, Dr. Gilden believes that people who are reaching their 50’s should go for Shingles vaccination, because taking it will also not create any harm to body.

In contrast Dr. Moster believed that there are many things that researchers are still not aware of like whether this vaccine really prevent giant cell arterities, because chickenpox virus is not only responsible for arterities, there are many other causes that can lead to giant cell arterities. Also he wanted researchers to study the effect of antiviral medicines on steroids. Does anti viral medication help to reduce the dose of steroids? Thus many studies are still need to be done.

This research study was released online in Journal Neurology on Feb. 18, 2015.