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Risk Factors for Shingles

You can only get shingles if you had chickenpox and the virus becomes reactivated. Only 20% of people who have had chickenpox get shingles. It is not known why some people get it and others do not.

Some of the factors that make people more likely to get shingles are:

Health Conditions

You are more likely to get shingles if you have a weak immune system. Conditions that raise your risk are:

Medications and Procedures

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

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Steroids
  • Medicines that lower the immune system


People over age 60 are at higher risk.

Ethnic Background

White people are at higher risk than Black people.


Herpes zoster. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated February 19, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018.

NINDS shingles information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Updated June 27, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018.

Shingles. The American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed July 16, 2018.

Shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated June 15, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018.

Stankus SJ, Dlugopolski M, Packer D. Management of herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(8):2437-2444.

6/9/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. Forbes H, Bhaskaran K, Thomas SL, Smeeth L, Clayton T, Langan SM. Quantification of risk factors for herpes zoster: population based case-control study. BMJ 2014;348:g2911.

Last reviewed May 2018 by James Cornell, MD  Last Updated: 7/18/18