AURORA, Colo. (Feb. 19, 2015) – A new study developed
at the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus
links the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles to a condition that
inflames blood vessels on the temples and scalp in the elderly, called giant
cell arteritis, which can cause blindness or stroke and can be
life-threatening, is linked in the study to the varicella zoster virus, of the
herpes virus family, which causes chicken pox and may reactivate later in life
in the form of shingles, a very painful rash.
analysis, which is the largest to-date, provides compelling evidence that the
virus also reactivates in people over 60 in another way, triggering
giant cell arteritis," said lead author Don Gilden, MD, professor of neurology
and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.
Gilden's study is published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical
journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
cell arteritis causes swelling and tenderness of the arteries on the scalp and
temples of people over the age of 50. Gilden noted that it is the most common
type of inflammation of blood vessels in the elderly, affecting an estimated 29
out of 100,000 people. Symptoms include a new severe headache, scalp
tenderness, jaw discomfort, blurred vision, fever, weight loss and tiredness.
the study, researchers searched for evidence of the virus in 13 temporal artery
biopsies of people who died and had no previous symptoms of giant cell
arteritis and in 84 temporal artery biopsies of people with giant cell
arteritis. All of the biopsies were from people over the age of 50.
virus was found in 74 percent of the biopsies with giant cell arteritis and in
only 8 percent of the normal skin biopsies.
the association in this landmark study can be replicated in other studies,
clinical trials should focus on treating people with giant cell arteritis with
a combination of the current steroid drugs used for the condition, plus
antiviral treatment for the virus," said Peter Kennedy, CBE, MD, PhD, DSc, with
the Glasgow University in Scotland, in a corresponding editorial.
study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
learn more about brain health, please visit www.aan.com/patients.
American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 28,000 neurologists
and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality
patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized
training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and
nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple
sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.
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