Shingles | Causes & Risk Factors


Who gets shingles?

After you have chickenpox (usually as a child), the virus that causes it stays inactive in your body inside certain nerve cells. Most of the time your immune system keeps the virus in these cells. As you get older, or if your immune system gets weak, the varicella-zoster virus may escape from the nerve cells and cause shingles. If you have had the chickenpox vaccine, you are less likely to get chickenpox and therefore less likely to later develop shingles.

Most people who get shingles are older than 50 years of age or have a weak immune system. For example, you might get shingles if you have cancer, take medicines that weaken your immune system, or have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Who gets HZO and why?

It is not common in children, rather it occurs more often as people get older. Men and women are equally affected. People who develop HZO have typically had chickenpox or have been exposed to the chickenpox virus in the past.


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 09/00