Should GCA sufferers take the shingles vaccine?

“…The researchers looked for links between the condition and the chickenpox/shingles virus because of the unusual way that it replicates in arteries, Gilden explained. The chickenpox virus remains in the body after someone gets the disease and can reappear later in life as the painful skin rash known as shingles.

In the new study, researchers examined biopsies of arteries from 95 dead people. They found signs of the chickenpox virus in 74 percent (61 of 82) of people who'd also had giant cell arteritis, but the virus was present in just 8 percent (1 of 13) of those people without the condition.

Gilden said patients with giant cell arteritis should take antiviral medication in addition to steroids. He noted that antivirals are safe overall, although they cost about $150 a week.

But Moster cautioned that researchers still need to study the use of antiviral medications in these patients. The researchers could also look into whether antiviral treatments will allow patients to avoid long-term use of steroids, he said.

The chickenpox vaccine aims to prevent the virus from infecting the body, and it's widely recommended. People without the virus in their system won't develop shingles. But researchers don't know if successful use of the vaccine will eliminate the risk of giant cell arteritis because the chickenpox virus could be one of several possible causes of the condition, Moster said.

Many older people have had chickenpox as children, and could be susceptible to both shingles and giant cell arteritis. What about those who never had it but didn't get vaccinated either? Gilden said tests can show if unvaccinated people have been exposed to the virus, meaning they wouldn't need to be vaccinated.

A vaccination against shingles exists, and health officials recommend that people aged 60 and older get it. Gilden thinks people aged 50 to 60 should get the shingles vaccine. It's not clear, however, if the shingles vaccine will fend off giant cell arteritis, he said. Still, "it won't hurt, but it may help," he said.

The study was published online Feb. 18 in the journal Neurology.”

4 Replies

  • The answer to your question is No. The shingles vaccine is live so not recommended for anyone taking steroids. Here in the UK the vaccine is offered on the NHS to those aged over 70. However, it isn't recommended for anyone aged over 80 as it is believed to be less effective in this age group. If someone on steroids for either PMR or GCA, or both, develops a painful rash they should get it checked out immediately with their Dr. If shingles is suspected, the sooner treatment with antiviral medication is instigated, the better as prompt treatment should lessen the severity and time to recovery and reduce the likelihood of ongoing nerve pain.

  • Thank you Celtic. When I was young there was no chicken pox vaccine. I guess that young people who have not had chicken pox (and don't have an autoimmune disease), should get the chicken pox vaccine. Who knows? Maybe they will be less likely to get GCA and PMR than we were. I won't get the shingles vaccine. Thanks again. It's amazing how doctors don't know these things.

  • It says it quite clearly in the data for the vaccine from the company if I remember rightly - and it certainly warns pred users not to accept live vaccines in the pred data sheet!

  • They say about Alzeheimer's and herpes virus link. They are not an easy virus to completely get it out of the system (unlikely). It's easily transmittable and most people have this common virus. Once you had it, you essentially have it for good (essentially until you die). I read the potential link bet. GCA and Herpes virus in some people (if not all). I doubt if we have any definitive antidote for that.

    I get to read that some people are reacting to shingle vaccine. I would be very wary of vaccines when you have a history of autoimmune disease.

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