People with painful autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), psoriatic arthritis or shingles have a 50% higher risk of suffering from a stroke, according to study presented at the 2015 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the Association for Rheumatology Health Professional (ARHP) annual meeting.
Dr. Leonard H. Calabrese, who is the vice chair of rheumatic and immunologic diseases at the Cleveland Clinic, led a team of researchers who analyzed Medicare data from 2006 to 2012. They identified 51,000 patients diagnosed with shingles and other painful autoimmune diseases, then looked for hospitalizations for ischemic stroke at one-, six- and 12-month intervals after their diagnosis.
What they found was the at stroke was 1.5 times more likely during the first six months after diagnosis compared to the 2-6 years that follow.
They also uncovered that there is a difference between those who have more complicated cases compared to those who do not. The complicated cases had a hazard ratio for stroke of 3.2 in the first 30 days compared to 1.6 in the uncomplicated group.
Patients who were prescribed antivirals with seven days of their shingles diagnoses had a 16% lower stroke risk than those who were not on antivirals.
Calabrese told Dermatology Times, that a prompt diagnosis and prompt treatment of shingles is important with respect to reducing the risk of stroke. He also noted that patients on immunosuppressive therapies or have had vaccines are “of increased importance now, viewing the risk of stroke.”
About Strokes and What to Do:
A stroke, or “brain attack,” occurs when an obstruction (usually a fatty deposit) blocks the blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Symptoms of stroke include trouble walking, speaking, and understanding, as well as paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg. Early treatment with medications can minimize brain damage. Other treatments focus on limiting complications and preventing additional strokes.
If you see any signs of stroke, think “FAST” and seek immediate medical attention:
- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift or droop downward?
- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
- Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.