Skip to main content

The Link Between Shingles and Chest Pain

The Link Between Shingles and Chest Pain

Chickenpox is a normally harmless infection that occurs in childhood and resolves within about 10 days. However, the virus that causes chickenpox (varicella zoster) remains in the body long-term, in a dormant state. Sometimes the virus reactivates later in life, causing an infection known as shingles.

While shingles is characterized by red blisters that appear all over the body, it can cause other symptoms as well, including chest pain. And it may put your heart health at risk.

Cardiovascular physician Majed Chane, MD, and the team at CA Heart and Vein Specialists want to increase awareness of the connection between shingles and chest pain. In this post, we explain why you may experience chest pain during a shingles outbreak, and how shingles may affect heart health.

Common shingles symptoms

Shingles is most commonly associated with an itchy, painful rash. The virus can cause a host of other symptoms as well, including:

People usually only experience shingles once, and it typically lasts 3-5 weeks. 

Shingles-related neuralgia may cause chest pain

When people think of a shingles infection, chest pain likely isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but this viral infection can affect nerves in your chest, resulting in chest pain. Neuralgia describes pain related to an irritated nerve, and it’s often the first symptom of a shingles outbreak. 

When the nerves of the chest are irritated by the virus, the immune system releases inflammatory proteins. You may experience a variety of sensations including sharp chest pain, tingling, pricking, and a pins-and-needles sensation. This symptom often precedes the painful rash that is characteristic of the infection. 

Shingles tends to occur in people over age 60 as a result of a decrease in immunity that enables reactivation of the virus.

Shingles increases heart attack and stroke risk

There’s another reason to feel concerned about shingles-related chest pain. Researchers have found a possible link between shingles and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. A 10-year study indicated that older adults who experience shingles are about twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke following an outbreak.

As of now, scientists haven’t pinned down exactly how reactivation of the varicella zoster virus doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke in older adults, so it’s crucial to take every precaution possible. 

Protecting your heart health after a shingles outbreak

Whether or not you have an existing cardiovascular condition, working with a cardiovascular physician is a wise step to take if you experience a shingles outbreak. Dr. Chane can evaluate and monitor your heart health closely during and after your shingles outbreak to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Your care plan may involve prescribing blood-thinning medication, conducting a cardiac stress test to check for blockages, and managing risk factors like high cholesterol. Because chest pain could be a sign of a heart attack, it’s vital to seek immediate medical attention if you have this symptom after a shingles outbreak. 

Post-herpetic neuralgia

In some people, shingles can cause a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia (PN). In PN, the reactivated virus triggers immune mechanisms that can lead to chronic pain. This can cause bouts of sudden pain in the chest, neck, shoulder, or other areas.

Awareness of the heart health risks of a shingles outbreak can help you take proactive steps to protect your heart. With the help of a cardiovascular physician, older adults who experience a shingles outbreak can protect their heart and blood vessel health as much as possible. 

For this and all of your cardiovascular needs, contact us at CA Heart and Vein Specialists in Huntington Beach, California, to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chane. Call the office or book a visit online today. 

You Might Also Enjoy...

The Dangers of Hypertension

The Dangers of Hypertension

There’s no doubt about it: High blood pressure is deadly when left untreated. Fortunately, you don’t have to die of hypertension-related diseases. You can take steps to prevent and effectively manage it when you know the dangers. 
Is Chest Pain Always Related to the Heart?

Is Chest Pain Always Related to the Heart?

Chest pain of any kind requires a thorough evaluation. Issues that range from the digestive system to the lungs, not just your heart, can cause chest discomfort or pain, but it’s always best to have a health professional check things out.
4 Subtle Signs of Poor Circulation

4 Subtle Signs of Poor Circulation

Symptoms of compromised circulation warrant a visit to a vascular specialist. Have you noticed signs of poor circulation? Early diagnosis of vascular issues can lead to better management and improvement in symptoms. 
What to Do About a Leg Ulcer

What to Do About a Leg Ulcer

Leg ulcers can be a silent alarm bell ringing, signaling underlying health issues. Don't delay taking action when you notice the signs; they require immediate attention and timely care. Here’s what to do.
Do Varicose Veins Go Away on Their Own?

Do Varicose Veins Go Away on Their Own?

When it comes to varicose veins, the struggle is more than skin deep. These twisted, enlarged veins not only present a cosmetic concern, but they can also indicate more serious underlying health issues. What makes them go away?
Can I Get Hypertension in My 20s?

Can I Get Hypertension in My 20s?

High blood pressure isn't exclusive to older adults. As hypertension becomes increasingly prevalent among young adults, dispelling myths and taking proactive steps becomes paramount.