Reassessing the link between herpes zoster ophthalmicus and stroke

Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2014 May;12(5):527-30. doi: 10.1586/14787210.2014.904203. Epub 2014 Mar 28.


This editorial will assess a proposed link between herpes zoster ophthalmicus and subsequent stoke. Herpes zoster (also called shingles) is caused by varicella-zoster virus (VZV), one of the 9 human herpesviruses. When children contract their primary VZV infection, virus often travels to the trigeminal ganglia and establishes latency. Upon reactivation in late adulthood, the same virus travels anterograde to cause herpes zoster ophthalmicus. In some people, the virus also traffics from the same trigeminal ganglion along afferent fibers around the carotid artery and its branches. Subsequently VZV-induced inflammation within the affected cerebral arteries leads to occlusion and stroke. In one retrospective analysis of people with herpes zoster ophthalmicus, there was a 4.5 fold higher risk of stroke than in a control group. Two other studies found a less compelling association.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology*
  • Carotid Arteries / virology
  • Child
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / complications*
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / epidemiology
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / pathology
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / virology
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / pathogenicity
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / pathology
  • Stroke / virology
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Trigeminal Ganglion / pathology
  • Trigeminal Ganglion / virology
  • Virus Activation
  • Virus Latency