Updated 15 December 2015

Vaccines Don't Appear to Increase Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

Findings challenge common myth about the illness, researchers say


This article has not necessarily been edited by Health24.

TUESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Routine adult vaccinations for flu and other conditions don't appear to increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a new study has found.

The finding challenges a common belief that such vaccinations can cause the immune system to attack the body and trigger long-term inflammatory conditions such as RA.

Swedish researchers examined the vaccination histories of 2,000 people, aged 18 to 70, with RA and more than 2,000 people without the condition. Vaccinations included in the study were for flu, tetanus, diphtheria, tick-borne encephalitis, polio, pneumococcus and hepatitis A, B and C.

The results showed that the type or number of vaccinations a person receives has no impact on the likelihood of developing RA.

The study was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

"This result does not rule out the possibility that vaccinations given earlier in life, or vaccinations that are rare, may trigger the development of RA," Camilla Bengtsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues wrote. But, they added, "it is unlikely that vaccinations in general should be considered a major risk factor for RA."

They also noted that the findings have "practical implications for what advice on vaccinations should be given to the general population, and, in particular, to groups at risk of RA, such as children of parents with RA."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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