The vaccine for chickenpox and shingles has been linked to inflammation of the eye’s cornea, but the number of such cases is small, a new study says.
“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 ophthalmology department and director of the University of Missouri Eye Institute, said in a university news release.
Researchers found 20 cases of keratitis in children and adults that occurred within a month of receiving a chickenpox or shingles vaccine. Symptoms of the disorder developed within 24 days of vaccination among adults. In children, symptoms began within 14 days of vaccination, the researchers said.
The researchers said there is a probable relationship between the vaccine and the eye inflammation. However, the new study wasn’t designed to prove that the vaccine actually caused the condition.
Despite the findings, most people should still get the chickenpox and shingles vaccine, the researchers said.
“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,” he said.
Anyone with a past history of keratitis should be closely monitored after they get a chickenpox or shingles vaccine to be sure they don’t have any inflammation of the cornea or additional scarring, Fraunfelder advised.
The study was presented recently at the American Academy of Ophthalmology in Las Vegas. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about shingles vaccination.