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Study Links Virus to Giant Cell Arteritis

A new study links the shingles virus to another painful condition in the elderly, giant cell arteritis. The varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox. After symptoms go away, the virus can hide in the body for many years. If it gets active again, it can cause shingles, a painful skin condition. The new study focused on giant cell arteritis. This condition usually strikes people age 60 or older. It causes inflamed blood vessels in the head and neck. Symptoms include sudden headaches, muscle aches and vision problems. In the new study, researchers looked at 95 biopsy samples taken from arteries in the face. They found signs of the varicella-zoster virus for 74% of people who had giant cell arteritis. They found the virus in only 8% of those without the condition. Researchers said antiviral medicines may help people with giant cell arteritis. They urged more research.

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