Diabetes Increases Risk of Herpes Zoster

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Diabetes has a role in the development of Herpes Zoster outbreaks. – Anales del Sistema sanitario de Navarra

Many people do not realize that Diabetes is associated with an impaired immune system. Specifically, a study published in 2008 in the journal Infection said that Diabetes is often accompanied by impaired cell-mediated immunity. This increases the risk of infections, including the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) that causes Herpes Zoster (2).

It is well known that the herpes zoster virus establishes a lifelong, dormant (latent) infection.

Because those with Diabetes may have an impaired immune system, VZV may reactivate in infected individuals resulting in a painful Herpes Zoster outbreak (2).

diabetes and VZV

As the study authors wrote, “The increased risk of HZ (Herpes Zoster) among DM (Diabetes Milletus) patients can also be explained by a … compromised diabetic microvascular network which can contribute to viral reactivation and increased risk of HZ. (2)”

Finally, it was noted that younger people with type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk of a herpes zoster outbreak.

The positive association between DM and HZ among younger patients who use insulin may suggest that insulin-dependent DM are at higher risk of HZ compared to patients with non insulin-dependent DM (2).”

The bottom line?

If you have diabetes, your risk for developing a shingles outbreak is increased.


(1) Aldaz P1, Díaz JA, Loayssa JR, Dronda MJ, Oscáriz M, Castilla J. “Herpes zoster incidence in diabetic patients” An Sist Sanit Navar. 2013 Jan-Apr;36(1):57-62.

(2) Heymann AD1, Chodick G, Karpati T, Kamer L, Kremer E, Green MS, Kokia E, Shalev V. “Infection. 2008 Jun;36(3):226-30.

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