Q: I was thinking of getting the shingles vaccine, but my sister told me that she got shingles after she had the vaccine. Is that possible? What are the benefits of the vaccine?

A: Your sister’s reaction was a coincidence. Similar to how someone has the flu after the flu vaccine. There are currently two shingles vaccines available in the United States and they are recommended after age 60. The benefits of the vaccine are similar to the flu vaccine, in that it can lessen your symptoms if you are to develop shingles. It is not 100% preventive, but it does not cause you to get shingles. The most important thing to remember is that shingles does not cross the midline of the body and if you are experiencing symptoms of shingles, such as severe pain under the skin, tingling, or a rash, then you need to see your health care provider as soon as possible because treatment within 48 hours of symptom onset can prevent the post symptoms that are the most painful side effects of shingles.

Q: What is the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis? I often hear about the two, and I do not understand the difference.

A: Osteoarthritis or arthritis is due to degeneration or normal wear and tear between joints while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is when your body produces antibodies or factors that “attack” other parts of your body or, in this case, joints in your body. Because these two diseases are caused by different reasons, there are different treatments available for each one. Most people have osteoarthritis which can be treated with Tylenol or anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen. Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed with specific lab work and on a clinical basis and has many additional medications used for treatment.

I look forward to your questions at Have a good week and continue to be curious and ask questions.

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