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Chickenpox, shingles vaccine may cause corneal inflammation in some patients

COLUMBIA, Mo. (Jan. 20, 2016) — In use for more than 20 years, the varicella zoster virus vaccine for chickenpox and shingles is considered an essential medicine by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found, in rare instances, a link between the vaccine and corneal inflammation. It is a finding the researchers say should be discussed by primary care physicians and patients with a history of eye inflammation before getting vaccinated.

“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,” said Frederick W. Fraunfelder, M.D., chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the MU School of Medicine and director of MU Health Care’s Mason Eye Institute. “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.”

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