I thank my mother for exposing my sister and I to the chicken pox at the same time as kids because I don’t even remember having it. And while shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. can make a joke of adult chicken pox, it’s adult manifestation is hardly a laughing matter.
Shingles is brought on by a dormant chicken pox infection that reactivates because of a weakened immune system. It results in a really painful skin rash and is very harsh in adults. It isn’t so much itchy as it is horribly painful because it forms blisters that scab over. In the rare disease community, we are often put on drugs that suppress the immune system to combat our conditions’ symptoms. Often, if you are on immunosuppressive therapy for a rare disease, and you’ve had the chicken pox, you might be at higher risk of shingles.
How is it related to arthritis? There are lots of different types of arthritis, like rare ones such as sjogrens, scleroderma, psoriatic arthritis, JIA and others. Arthritis can be so debilitating that it absolutely has to be controlled by drugs to manage the pain and maintain daily functionality.
In a study conducted by Arthritis & Rheumatology researchers took a look at the arthritis treatment tofacitinib, which is known to weaken the immune system and make patients more susceptible to shingles.
Research showed that when given the shingles vaccine prior to tofacitinib, patients will have a higher immune response and are less likely to get the shingles! The catch is that you have to have been exposed to chicken pox before. Otherwise, the vaccine may make a shingles flare imminent.
To read more about this study, click here.