Varicella-zoster virus infection and autonomic dysfunction

Auton Neurosci. 2022 Nov:242:103018. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2022.103018. Epub 2022 Jul 8.


Background and purpose: Autonomic dysfunction has been occasionally described in varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection, while few systematic reviews are available. We systematically review autonomic dysfunction due to VZV infection.

Methods: This study followed the PRISMA guideline, and three databases were researched and included cross-sectional studies in full-length publications in the English language using appropriate search keywords.

Results: A total of 102 articles were identified initially; finally 45 studies were used for review, comprising pupillomotor dysfunction in 4, sudomotor dysfunction in 2, cardiovascular dysfunction in 2, gastrointestinal dysfunction in 14, and urogenital dysfunction in 23. They can be summarized as (1) VZV infection rarely produces orthostatic hypotension, which involves diffuse sympathetic dysfunction by polyneuropathy. (2) In contrast, VZV infection produces dysfunction of the bladder and the bowel, which involves segmental parasympathetic or sympathetic dysfunction by dorsal root ganglionopathy.

Conclusions: Awareness of VZV-related autonomic dysfunction is important, because such patients may first visit a gastroenterology or urology clinic. Close collaboration among neurologists, dermatologists, gastroenterologists, and urologists is important to start early antiviral agents and maximize bowel and bladder care in such patients.

Keywords: Autonomic dysfunction; Dorsal root ganglia; Intestinal pseudo-obstruction; Urinary retention; Varicella-zoster virus.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases* / etiology
  • Chickenpox*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Herpes Zoster* / complications
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human
  • Humans