A risk factor is something that raises a person's chances of getting a disease or health problem. The more risks a person has, the greater the chances are.

A person can only get shingles if they had chickenpox. The virus becomes reactivated later on. One in 3 people who have had chickenpox get shingles. It is not known why some people get it and others do not.

Shingles is more common in people over 60 years old. It is also more common in females and Whites. Other things that raise the risk are:

Health Conditions

  • Chicken pox infection before age 1 year (in utero or early infancy)
  • Current cancer, such as Hodgkin lymphoma, lymphoma, and leukemia
  • HIV infection or AIDS
  • Diabetes
  • Long-term health problems that weaken the immune system

Medications and Procedures

Certain procedures and medicines may raise the risk, such as:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Steroids
  • Medicines that lower the immune system
  • Organ and stem cell transplants

About shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/index.html. Accessed November 15, 2021.

Herpes zoster. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/herpes-zoster. Accessed November 15, 2021.

Shingles information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Shingles-Information-Page. Accessed November 15, 2021.

Shingles overview. The American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/shingles-overview. Accessed November 15, 2021.

Last reviewed November 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 11/15/21