Does somebody with psoriasis have an increased risk of contracting shingles? The answer is uncertain, but some experts say yes. Let’s look at some of the reasons why that could be the case and whether there are any steps people can take to reduce this risk.
As you probably know, psoriasis is the result of an immune disorder that causes the body to attack itself in the form of a rapid scaly tissue build up. Shingles on the other hand is caused by the varicella virus. This is the virus that causes Chicken Pox. After recovery it stays in the body and becomes dormant, but in later years it can reactivate and cause Shingles. Anyone who had chicken pox as a child is at risk for shingles as an adult. But how can there be a connection between the two conditions?
To understand this we need to look at the reasons why the varicella virus reactivates in some people. One of the reasons put forward for this is that with age, cell-mediated immunity does not work work as well as it used to, so as the immune system declines in efficiency it lets opportunistic bugs, bacteria and virus take hold, or come out of hibernation.
If the patient already has an immune system disorder, like psoriasis, then their immune system is already compromised, which may mean that other conditions that attack the immune system, such as shingles, are more likely.
Some research also suggests that the combination of certain psoriatic disease treatments can raise the risk of shingles. A 2015 study found that people taking a combination of methotrexate and a biologic had a significantly increased risk for shingles. It’s thought that this increased risk could be caused by the immunosuppressive effects of these drugs.
So is there anything that can be done to reduce the risk of shingles in later life? For people in their seventies in the UK the NHS now provide a routine shingles vaccination. Otherwise there’s little hard scientific data, but as a compromised immune system is a known risk factor for shingles, people with psoriasis who want to reduce risks of other conditions may want to look at strategies that are said to boost the immune system and make susceptibility to infections less likely. These include eating a healthy diet, getting regular excersize, stress management and adequate sleep. Other suggestions include frequent washing of hands and taking care to cooking meats thoroughly.
Tricia Lowther is a freelance writer from the north of England. Psoriasis runs in her family. You can follow Tricia on Twitter @TrishLowt.
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