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Rheumatoid arthritis: Protect your health with vaccines



Rheumatoid arthritis and the medicines used to treat it can increase your risk of infection. Vaccinations can prevent some of these infections.

As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system inadvertently attacks your own tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects the tissue that lines your joints, but also your lungs, heart, kidneys and eyes.

Rheumatoid arthritis medications work by suppressing your immune system. An undesirable side effect of this suppression, however, is an increased risk of infection – especially in the lungs.

Vaccinations can help reduce the risk of infection. However, if you have a weakened immune system you should avoid vaccines that contain live viruses. Such vaccinations can lead to infections in people with weakened immune systems.

Doctors recommend people with rheumatoid arthritis the annual vaccine against influenza, also known as flu shots. The nasal spray version contains live viruses and is therefore not recommended for people with weakened immune systems.

Your doctor may also recommend the pneumonia vaccine and shingles vaccine. Unlike the pneumonia vaccine, the shingles vaccine contains live viruses and is therefore not recommended for people taking certain types of anti-rheumatoid arthritis medicines.

Talk to your doctor about which vaccines may be suitable for you and when to use them during treatment. This is the best time to get them.

Updated: 2017-07-20

Release date: 2014-07-04


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