Diseases that May Go Hand in Hand

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have increased risk of shingles

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Patients who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) face a greater risk of developing shingles compared to those without COPD. The risk becomes even greater for those taking oral steroids for COPD.

Shingles - also known as herpes zoster - is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus responsible for chicken pox. It is already known that people with a compromised immune system have a greater risk of shingles. However, it has not been studied in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease until now.

Given the increasing evidence that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an autoimmune disease, Dr. Hui-Wen Lin of Taipei Medical University and colleagues conducted a study involving data from 42,430 patients, 8,486 of whom had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The researchers identified 321 cases of shingles in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. That is 16.4 per 1000 person years compared to 8.8 per 1000 person years in the comparison group of individuals without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

After accounting for other risk factors of shingles, this study showed that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder are more likely to develop shingles than the general population, the authors write. Furthermore, the risk of shingles increases if patients are taking oral corticosteroids to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shingles affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States each year. Shingles is most common in individuals over the age of 50. However, those who have had chickenpox are at risk of developing shingles. Those with a compromised immune system are also at a greater risk of developing shingles.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a general term used to describe lung disease that involve obstruction of the airway. Such diseases include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In 2006, deaths rates among men with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder were 46.4 per 100,000. In the same year, death rates for women with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder were 34.2 per 100,000.

The study by Dr. Lin and colleagues is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 23, 2011
Last Updated:
February 24, 2011