Covid-19 can increase the risk of other diseases: diabetes, for example, or inflammation of the heart muscle. According to a US study, the risk of developing shingles is significantly higher, especially in the first six months after healing from a corona infection. The warm season that is now starting is considered a good time to be vaccinated against it.
At least 24 million Germans have already been infected by Covid-19, 2.8 million currently suffer from it. In many cases, the infection is mild and those affected return to their feet after a short time. But what many of those affected don’t know: Covid 19 disease also increases the risk of other diseases – shingles, for example.
Increased risk of shingles in women and over 65s
According to a US study, the risk of developing shingles is significantly increased, especially in the first six months after healing from coronary heart disease. A current evaluation of US health insurance data shows that people over 50 have a 15% higher risk of developing shingles after contracting Covid 19. In patients with a severe course, including hospitalization , it was even 21% higher. There were also differences between the sexes and in some age groups: women have a higher risk than men. Additionally, people over the age of 65 are more at risk than people between the ages of 50 and 64.
The immune system of the elderly is again weakened by Covid-19
Experts explain this phenomenon with a weakening of the immune system with age. From the second half of life, the immune system naturally weakens, even without Covid-19 disease. The remaining immune cells are likely further damaged by a corona infection, at least temporarily. This can also lead to the outbreak of shingles, for example.
The shingles virus in the body is reactivated
Following this temporary immunodeficiency, the “varicella-zoster virus” responsible for shingles, which is dormant in the body of a large part of the population, can be reactivated. Anyone who is first infected with the virus gets chickenpox. After surviving chickenpox infection, the virus often remains dormant in the body for decades. If the immune system is now weakened due to age, illness or stress, the virus can be reactivated in the form of shingles. This time the disease comes from within.
Older people are particularly at risk and are often affected: over 95 per cent of those over 60 already have the virus in their body. Shingles is one of the most common diseases in adulthood: statistically, one in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime.
Shingles produces nerve pain
A particularly stressful but not uncommon consequence of shingles is long-lasting, sometimes irreversible, severe neuropathic pain, also known as post-herpetic neuralgia. Up to 30 percent of those affected suffer from this complication, which sometimes also needs to be treated in an inpatient setting.
STIKO recommends vaccination against shingles from the age of 60
The Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO) recommends vaccination against shingles for people over the age of 60 and people with underlying diseases from the age of 50. The typical decrease in the incidence of infections during the summer months is considered an ideal time for prevention. Since 2019, vaccination against shingles is part of the catalog of services provided by mandatory health insurance.