Tag Archives: ra and shingles

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RA & Vaccinations

Keeping up with your vaccinations is always a smart move, but getting immunized is especially important when you have an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both RA and the medicines you take to treat it can increase your risk for infections.

When Joan Wilkinson’s RA flared, her rheumatologist insisted that she and her husband get pneumonia and shingles vaccines to protect her from these common infections. “He said, ‘When you leave here today, go straight to the pharmacist,’” she recalls.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Raises Shingles Risk

People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have roughly twice the risk of healthy older adults of developing shingles, a virus related to chickenpox that causes pain and a blistering rash.

Most adults have been exposed to varicella zoster virus, which causes chickenpox. This virus is never completely cleared from our bodies, but lies quietly in spinal nerve cells. If it’s reactivated it causes shingles, explains rheumatologist Jeffrey Curtis, MD, professor medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The reactivated virus is called herpes zoster or shingles.

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