This study may change how we look at shingles and dementia

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The study claims shingles does not increase a person’s chance of dementia

According to a new study published by the American Academy of Neurology, shingles — a viral infection caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus — is likely not associated with an increased risk of dementia, shirking off years of scientific speculation. Without a clear consensus, some scientists previously argued that the inflammation caused by shingles increased a person’s risk of dementia.

“As a person’s age increases, so does their risk of dementia, and it’s important to determine which factors may contribute to this risk,” study author Sigrun Alba Johannesdottir Schmidtt, MD, PhD, of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, told News Wise. “Shingles most often affects people over age 50. The good news is that our study found it does not seem to increase a person’s risk for dementia.”

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After adjusting for other health conditions, scientists found that people within their study with shingles actually had a 7% lower risk of dementia than people who did not have shingles.

“We were surprised by these results,” Dr. Schmidt said. “The reasons for this decreased risk are unclear, but it could be explained by missed diagnoses of shingles in people with undiagnosed dementia. Shingles vaccination is encouraged for older people because it can prevent complications from the disease, but our study suggests it is unlikely to reduce dementia risk.”

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According to News Wise, the study was limited to participants who were treated for the disease. No study was completed for those with untreated shingles. And 0.1% of those with shingles were found to have nearly twice the risk of dementia, as the shingles virus had affected their central nervous systems.

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