Flare up of GCA after the flu injection

Has anyone had a flare up of their PMR/GCA after receiving the flu jab?

I am told that I need the flu jab every year because of my condition GCA/PMR . However I have noticed that each time I get the jab I have a flare!! I also have a flare after a bad cold/chest infection, so could this disease be linked to a virus/infection as I have read about on this site.? I'm thinking I may take my chances next year and not have the flu injection.

14 Replies

  • Hello Bowler,

    I started with PMR after a 'flu jab in 2011,

    I did ask if the jab could have triggered the PMR directly but was told that this was unlikely -

    but there is some obscure research out there which does say there may be a link. I have gone back for my annual jabs with no problems so far.

    However, my rheumatologist does say that PMR can be caused by a viral infection

    - and I am prone to getting those - another virus I had has damaged my balance and co-ordination.

    So I do believe that a virus may be responsible for PMR in my case.

    Take care,


  • Hello Karen

    Thank you for your reply. I am new to this site and am finding it very informative.

    I posted a question on this site and also had a quick response to that.

    I had a bad kidney infection and I haven't felt well since, that was in Nov.!! since then I'm having a flare of GCA and back on a high dose of steroids. I hate the side effects of Prednisolone [ I call it poison ] and after 14 years of it I've had my share.

    I was diagnosed with GCA/PMR 14 years ago aged 54. and have had lots of flares in that time, mostly GCA but not so much of the PMR, but I sometimes get them together, which is very painful.

    I notice that when our grandchildren come to visit and if they have a cold I always seem to catch it, which then goe's to my chest, which raises the ESR. It's a vicous circle

    Thanks once again

    Pat [ Bowler]

  • Hello Pat,

    You are very welcome ,

    It must be so frustrating for you having been ill with this for so long.

    I have a nasty cold at the moment and my arms and legs have gone very stiff as a result!

    All we can do is take one day at a time, and get as much rest as we can - which is easier said than done!!!!

    Take care,


  • Hi Bowler, I have had a similar experience to Karen. I developed PMR 4 days after the flu vaccine in Oct 2011. My Rheumatologist says it is possible the flu vaccine acted as the trigger, in that I would have possibly developed PMR years later and the flu vaccine. "Switched it on" earlier. She did say it is not thought to be the components in the vaccine, it's just one of many environmental triggers. She persuaded me to have the flu vaccine in Oct 2012 as I work on the frontline of the NHS. I did have a flare after this vaccine, but thankfully had physio shortly after which eased the tension in the muscles. Virus wise I used to get lot of infections prior to PMR, but have had none since Oct 2011, so will still probably have vaccine this year and hope for only a small flare if any :-)

    You have had to put up with this for so long, I hope this recent flare settles soon for you.

    Take care

    Runrig :-)

  • Hello Runrig.

    How nice of you to reply, like I said to Karen I am finding this site very informative.

    After having this GCA/PMR for so long it really can get to you, and it does give me depression, so it's nice to talk to others in the same boat, and share our experiences.

    I retired 8 years ago as a community carer with social services after 25 years service, so always had the flu injection.

    I will have to have another think about wether to have another flu jab this year, I dont mind a small flare, as that means only a small rise in my Pred. but when I have to take 30/40mgs [which I am on now ] I start getting all the awful side effects.

    One good thing on high dose steroids is that I get to do all those jobs round the house that need doing with all the energy they give me, however I would rather not be on them.


    Pat [ Bowler ]

  • The vaccine is made from a 'dead' virus, so it can't give you flu, but as it boosts your immunity to flu, I suppose it's not impossible that it does something to your immune system and hence the flares. It didn't happen to me, fortunately.

  • It's amazing how we all react differently to medications/flu jabs. I'm also surprised that several people on this site seem to think that the flu injection caused their PMR?

    Last year I had the Pneumonia jab and the flu jab, having 2 of them gave me a bad flare.

    I'm glad I found this site, at least we can share our experiences.

  • I haven't had the flu vaccination but my rheumatologist is of the opinion that it has the potential to increase inflammation in some cases. I know of many people who have had the vaccination without any effects whatsoever, but I also know others who say they have experienced worsening symptoms following the jab.

    As it is known that any stress, trauma to the body, or infection of any sort is sometimes followed by a flare in some people, then it would seem possible that a vaccination could have a similar effect.

    I don't know if it still applies but there were two different types of flu vaccine being given at one stage and I remember reading that the vaccine specially produced to give protection against a specific severe flu virus a few winters ago (sorry the name evades me at this moment - anno domini!!!) was being used up the following winter. As the vaccination is apparently slightly modified each year depending on which flu virus is approaching, I have wondered whether some people might react to one type but not to another.

  • I think I may decline the flu injection this winter and take my chances, It really puts me back when I have to go on a higher dose of Pred. I was down to 5mgs last year and after the flu jab I had to go up to 15. I also had the pneumonia and the flu jab together, so having the 2 didn't suit me.

    I am now on 30mgs of pred, due to a bad kidney infection which has left me with a flare of GCA. Perhaps I am just one of the unlucky ones, who easily gets a flare.

    Isn't life grand??

  • Pat

    It's a difficult choice whether to have the flu vaccine or not, isn't it. I have had flu several times during my younger years and been very ill indeed but felt nervous about having the vaccination during my years on steroids. Each winter I have tried to bump up my intake of fresh fruit and veggies (difficult because we have loads anyway!) added to which I take Manuka honey, live yoghurt and fresh garlic daily - I think the latter would keep even the vampires away!

    What rotten luck going down with a kidney infection and even more rotten that it resulted in a GCA flare. Having only one kidney myself, I would dread getting such an infection so I do empathise with you Hopefully, if you're completely over the kidney infection you will find that you will be able to get down through the doses more quickly this time around to where you last felt comfortable. Best wishes.

  • Sorry to hear that you only have one kidney.

    The hospital took me off one of my blood pressure tablets [ Lisinopril ], saying "it was those that was probably causing the infection and giving me a low kidney function test of 42 and a high potassium rate", they now say " I have grade 3 kidney failure!!!"

    I had to have 2 lots of antibiotics for the kidney infection, which is now clear, and tomorrow I start to taper my steroid dose, which I hope will stop these palpitations.

    However when reading info on blood pressure tablets, most say "could affect the kidneys, or dont take if you have kidney problems!!" so what doe's one do, it's a vicious circle, as I need the tablets to control the b/pressure.

    We do have what I call "an old fashioned diet" of meat and 2 veg, and fish. I love garlic but it can be a bit unsociable!! never tried Manuka honey, always seems so expensive.

    We started off with GCA, the flu injection, now we are on to the kidneys!!

    I cant understand how an infection,[ be it kidney or chest] will inflame the arteries in the head?? yet another subject to talk about. It's amazing what the body will put up with.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences,


  • I'll send you a personal message - as it's about kidneys/high blood pressure, I don't want to hijack this wonderful PMR and GCA forum!

  • There was a separate vaccine developed for swine flu, specially for vulnerable people and pregnant women. The following year this was incorporated into the annual winter flu vaccine. I would't go without a flu jab. I would have thought that a bad dose of flu would be even more likely to trigger a flare-up. And as I live on my own, I wouldn't want to risk being seriously ill if I could possibly help it.

  • Before I was diagnosed, I used to have a flu shot every year. I then began to realize that very, very shortly after I had the flu shot, I got very sick with what seemed to be the flu. I stopped taking the flu shots and this horrific flu like "cold" stopped also. I didn't get them anymore. I was dealing with migraines, then, also and this horrific flu like situation after the flu shot made the migraines worse.

    Since I have been diagnosed with GCA, I continue with refusing flu shots and have not have this really bad type cold that seems like a flu.

    In 2006, I was hospitalized with pneumonia and took the pneumonia prevention shot. I have not had pneumonia since. The flu shot is the one I continue to avoid. That is my experience, it may be different with others. best, Whittlesey

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