Did the shingles shot cause my flare?

Does anyone have any information on the possibility that the shingles shot cause my flare up?

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 50 and was placed on hydroxychloroquine 200 mg which is the generic for plaquenil. It is now 8 years later and I have done generally very well over the years with diet, exercise, and medication. At times doing so well that my rheumatologist felt that I did not need to take my medication. Last year my family physician said I should ask my rheumatologist if it was okay for me to get the shingles shot. I did ask my rheumatologist if it was alright to get the shot and she said I could get the vaccine. It might be important to note that I had not needed to take my medication for at least six months and my rheumatologist felt I was doing so well I did not need to see her again for a year. I got the shingles shot on December 8th and the next week I started becoming very tired and then the following week I developed a stiff neck that was so painful I could not turn my neck and then both my arms in my bicep area became very painful. These problems have been painful enough that I am having a great deal of difficulty sleeping. These problems developed when I was on a recent extended vacation so I could not get back to my rheumatologist for awhile. I tried to manage the discomfort by getting massages and seeing a chiropractor in the area where I was vacationing which has helped but the only real improvement is that my neck is not as stiff. I tend to be a person who tries more natural remedies first before rushing back to my prescription but I am now at two months since my problems began so I am going to make an appointment with my rheumatologist. However recently the thought occurred to me that the shingles shot could have triggered a flare up. I have been unable to find anything online regarding that topic. I have only found a lot of information indicating people with RA should get a shingles shot. Does anyone have any information on the possibility that the shingles shot cause my flare up?


Community Answers
  • Richard Faust moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi bick58. What triggers a flare or reemergence of RA from remission is largely a mystery. On top of the information from Erin, I thought you might be interested in this article from one of our contributors looking at research on the question of whether RA patients in remission should continue treatment: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/remission-now-what/. Wishing you the best. Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • bick58 author
    9 months ago

    Richard, thanks for the information. I have been going back and forth as to whether I should stay on my medication in the future no matter how well I am feeling and I have decided I will go back on the medicine and stay no matter how well I feel. I happened to have an annual physical last week and they checked my RA factor which was 204.2 with the reference range being <14 IU/ML. The office called me and wanted to make sure I am going back to see my rheumatologist. Thanks again for providing me with this information. bick58

  • Erin Rush moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi bick58! This is a topic of interest within our community. I will say that people with RA taking certain medications are advised to NOT get the shingles vaccine. You can read more about shingles and RA here — https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/shingles/comment-page-1/#comments. I hope this answers your question and if you are still experiencing a flare, I hope it ends very soon! Best, Erin, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member.

  • bick58 author
    9 months ago

    Erin thanks for the information. I have found it so difficult living with RA for many reasons but one of the big issues is when I don’t feel well is it the RA or is it from over use if my body hurts or just simply getting older or if I am very tired is it because I have been pushing myself too hard etc. It is even hard for the doctors many times to properly diagnose or help me. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a physician and they say “you are a difficult case” or they say “I don’t know”and give me no direction. I also have hypothyroidism so that gets thrown in there for them to try and figure out what’s going on. And as I am sure lots of people with RA can relate to if I look good on the outside people think everything’s okay. Thanks again, bick58

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