Lupus and the Shingles Vaccine
Shingles is a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus stays in your body even after you have recovered from chickenpox and your immune system keeps it under control. Shingles occurs when the virus breaks through your body’s defenses and causes a rash, usually on one side of the body. Shingles can be very painful and can cause severe nerve pain that can last long after the rash is gone. If you have had chickenpox, you can get shingles. Getting the shingles vaccine is a great way to protect yourself.
If you don’t remember whether you’ve had chickenpox, you can find out by asking your doctor to test your blood.
The shingles vaccine acts as a “booster” for the immune system, helping to keep the virus under control.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people over 50 receive the recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV or Shingrix). The American College of Rheumatology additionally recommends that anyone over 18 who is on immunosuppressive medication should also receive the shingles vaccine.
The recombinant zoster vaccine does not contain live virus. The older shingles vaccine that contained live virus (Zostavax) is no longer given in the United States.
Common side effects of the shingles vaccine include:
- Mild to moderate pain
- Redness and swelling in injection site
- Muscle pain
- Stomach pain
If symptoms do not improve within 2-3 days, call your doctor.
People with lupus are at higher risk of getting shingles, compared to those without it, and the effects of shingles can be painful and long lasting. Talk to your doctor about whether the shingles vaccine is right for you.