FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Some patients develop corneal inflammation from chickenpox vaccine

The chickenpox and shingles vaccine can cause corneal inflammation. | File photo
Scientists from the University of Missouri School of Medicine recently discovered  there are rare cases where the varicella zoster virus vaccine, which is meant to protect people from chickenpox and shingles, causes corneal inflammation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized the vaccine as an essential medicine for over 20 years, but this new discovery could change its recommendation.

The study shows rare cases that demonstrate a correlation between the patients receiving the vaccine and developing corneal inflammation.

"Keratitis, or inflammation of the clear layer on the front of the eye, is a vision issue that can cause serious complications or even permanent damage to your vision if left untreated," Dr. Frederick Fraunfelder, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the MU School of Medicine, said. "By studying case reports from national and international registries, we found at least 20 cases of keratitis occurred in children and adults within a month of administration of the chickenpox and shingles vaccine. While this is a rare occurrence, it's important for physicians to know when giving the vaccine to individuals who have a history of the condition because it could be reactivated by the vaccine."

The researchers report that it is important for health care physicians and their patients to discuss this finding before the patients receive the vaccine. 

"It's important to note that keratitis associated with these vaccines is very rare, and by itself is not a reason to forego vaccination," Fraunfelder said. "But for patients who have a history of keratitis, we recommend they talk to their primary care physician before getting vaccinated. If these individuals are vaccinated, they should be closely monitored to ensure they don't experience corneal inflammation or additional scarring."

Organizations in this story

University of Missouri 104 Jesse Hall Columbia, Missouri 65211 Columbia, Missouri 65211

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