Are Type II Diabetics Prone to getting Shingles?

Shingles is a viral infection that is caused due to the reactivation of a particular virus known as varicella-zoster. It is basically a herpes virus which causes the chickenpox disease during its first activation. Once you have suffered from chickenpox, it recedes and hides inside your nerves’ roots for many years. Whenever it gets reactivated, it travels up to the skin’s surface via some nerves and presents itself in the form of painful lesions known as herpes zoster or shingles.

It has been found that almost 20% of the patients who get shingles are likely to suffer from its complicated version known as postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. This condition is characterized by severe pain along the nerve fiber that gets affected by the varicella-zoster virus owing to the severe damage caused to it. Its pain can continue for several months or even years after the shingles gets cured. It can be so severe that the patient may go into depression or develop chronic insomnia.

An average person has a 30% chance of suffering from shingles disease in his/her lifetime and once you have had it, your chances of getting it again increase significantly. The medical studies have found that you’re most likely to develop shingles in case:

  • You suffered from chickenpox when you were under 1 years old
  • Your present age is over 60
  • Your immune system has been compromised due to certain diseases or medications

Shingles and type II diabetes

Many scientific studies have inferred that the type II diabetes can have a major negative impact on an individual’s immune system, thereby making him/her vulnerable to several types of infections including shingles. The June 2014 edition of the medical journal ‘Infection’ carried a report which stated the results of a study on shingles (herpes zoster) specifically in cases of people who had been diagnosed with the type II diabetes.

People suffering from diabetes are highly susceptible to infection development as their high blood sugar levels weaken their immune systems. Additionally, some of the diabetes related health problems like nerve damage and the compromised blood circulation increase the body’s natural ability to fight off infections. People suffering from both type I and type II diabetes are prone to yeast infections, surgical site infections, urinary tract infections, foot infections and herpes zoster infection.

Whenever a diabetic is given insulin injection, the site of that injection provides a possible gateway for certain types of immune suppressants to enter his/her blood.

Furthermore, people suffering from diabetes experience lower blood flow to the body’s extremities. Owing to the reduced blood flow, the person’s body becomes inefficient in mobilizing the normal nutrients and immune defenses that help the body to heal and fight off infections. As a result, the person becomes more vulnerable to infections like shingles.

Why do infections have a much more detrimental effect in case of Type II diabetics or diabetics in general?

People suffering from type II diabetes in general are severely affected by shingles infection than someone who doesn’t have diabetes because diabetics undergo significant weakening of their immune defenses. Medical studies have revealed that diabetes patients, even the ones who don’t experience major spikes in their blood sugar levels, experience the worst outcomes when suffering from infections like shingles. Even if you go by the hospital’s data, although the diabetics don’t have a higher mortality rate (directly related to infections), they certainly have to undergo longer hospitalization periods and take a lot of time to recover.

Researchers at the Glaxo Smith Kline vaccines based on Wavre, Belgium studied the shingles cases in diabetics, including the type II diabetes patients and found that:

  • As many as 380,401 people suffering from type II diabetes also suffered from shingles in comparison to every 1 million non-diabetic shingles patients.
  • When studied over 9 years’ time period it was found that type II diabetics who were aged 65 years or more had almost 3 times more the risk of suffering from shingles than the non-diabetics.
  • Diabetic patients falling in the age bracket of 40 years to 64 years had 51% more risk of suffering from shingles in comparison to non-diabetics falling in the same age bracket.

Final Word

On the whole, these researchers inferred that people suffering from type II diabetes in specific had a significantly higher risk of developing shingles than the non-diabetics.

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