The article titled “Herpes Zoster Prevalence in Patients with Rheumatic Diseases” from the ACR Convergence 2023, authored by a team led by Rodrigo J. Castillo-de la Garza, explores the occurrence of herpes zoster (commonly known as shingles) in patients with rheumatic diseases. Herpes zoster, which results from the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (the virus responsible for chickenpox), tends to appear as a painful rash following nerve pathways and can lead to lasting pain known as postherpetic neuralgia. This condition is more frequently seen in older adults and those with weakened immune systems, such as individuals with autoimmune diseases.

The study was a cross-sectional analysis conducted at a referral hospital in Northeast Mexico from December 2022 to May 2023. The researchers included adults with rheumatic diseases and collected data through questionnaires and medical record reviews, focusing on herpes zoster occurrences, patient demographics, disease onset, recurrence, vaccination status, and hospitalizations due to herpes zoster.

From the study, 182 patients with rheumatic diseases were assessed, and 33 (18.13%) reported having experienced a herpes zoster event. Among these, the majority were not vaccinated against herpes zoster, and almost all were treated with antivirals; a small number were hospitalized due to severe symptoms. Specifically, the prevalence of herpes zoster was highest among patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), followed by those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).

The study concluded that patients with rheumatic diseases have a sixfold higher likelihood of experiencing herpes zoster compared to the general population. The authors emphasized the importance of vaccination to prevent herpes zoster and its complications, although they acknowledged that access to the vaccine might be limited for some individuals.