A woman uses her inhaler

Asthma and Shingles: What's the Link?

About one million cases of shingles, a painful skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus, are reported every year. While researchers know quite a bit about what causes this condition, a new study sheds light on a seemingly unrelated condition that could increase your risk—asthma. 

Does asthma cause the shingles? 

According to work done by Dr. Young Juhn, a general academic pediatrician and asthma epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic Children's Research Center there is a possible link between asthma and shingles. The recent study builds on a previous 2013 study that found a link between childhood asthma and shingles.

"The effect of asthma on the risk of infection or immune dysfunction might very well go beyond the airways," Juhn said in a Mayo Clinic news release.

How was the study conducted? 

The study was conducted in Olmsted County, Minnesota where researchers evaluated the medical records of people assumed to have shingles. A total of 371 cases, with the average age being 67, were identified. Those cases were then compared to a number of 742 people without shingles.

Researchers reported that out of the 371 shingles cases, 23% had asthma, while only 15% of the 742 cases without shingles had asthma. The study concluded that people affected with asthma had a 70% greater risk for shingles than people without asthma. However, it did not provide a clear understanding for the link. One possibility is that the shingles virus may be reactivated by asthma.

The study has met some criticism, however. Medical professionals have described the findings as premature and low in accuracy. But If the study does prove to be true, adults with asthma should consider being vaccinated for shingles by age 50 in order to avoid the possibility of developing the painful condition. 

Last Updated: November 10, 2016