Shingles and Rheumatoid Disease

December 20, 2016

Rheumatoid Disease patients have an increased risk for another painful condition—the skin rash known as shingles (or herpes zoster).

This peculiar disease is caused by a common childhood infection that lies silent in the body for years before it is reanimated and causes havoc in adulthood. The misery is usually over in a few weeks for most sufferers, but shingles may produce long-term complications.

A bout with shingles usually begins as pain, itching, or tingling on one side of the body. Soon red, bumpy patches form on the skin. The red patches turn to blisters, which break and leave behind crusty formations that eventually fall off.  Shingles can also cause fever, headache, upset stomach, and other symptoms.  A case of shingles usually clears up in a few weeks.

If you have heart issues and get shingles immediately see your doctor.

People with inflammatory arthritis are two to three times more likely than others to develop shingles.  There’s little evidence that the widely prescribed disease-modifying drug (DMARD) methotrexate can trigger an attack but some biologic treatments are suspect.

Please note that the use of live virus vaccines when someone is using a biologic is not generally recommended.  So, before you try the shingles vaccine Zostavaux please consult your rheumatologist.

Useful References

A JAMA publication 

A PubMed article