Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Overview

Español: Información general

Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles, also known as herpes zoster, in their lifetime. There are an estimated 1 million cases of shingles each year in this country. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles. However, the risk of shingles increases as you get older. About half of all cases occur in people 60 years old or older.

Some people have a greater risk of getting shingles. This includes people who

  • have medical conditions that keep their immune systems from working properly, such as certain cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and
  • receive immunosuppressive drugs, such as steroids and drugs that are given after organ transplantation.

Most people who develop shingles have only one episode during their lifetime. However, a person can have a second or even a third episode.

Cause

Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. Scientists aren’t sure why the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.

 Top of Page

TOP