Are you at risk?

As you get older, you may be at greater risk for Shingles — even if you're feeling great.

Even if you're doing everything your doctor or pharmacist recommends, the painful, blistering rash of Shingles can happen to you. Because your immune system can weaken as you age, it's easier for Shingles to break through your defenses.

Substantially more cases of Shingles occur as people get older.
Graph of Shingles Risk by Age

Unfortunately, there's no way to predict when the Shingles rash will erupt, or how severe the outbreak will be. But when Shingles happens, it can be very painful. Here are the important facts:

  • If you've had chickenpox, you are at risk for Shingles. And 98% of adults in the United States have had chickenpox.

  • Your risk for Shingles increases substantially as you get older.

  • Shingles can strike at any time.

That's why it's so important for you to learn more about your risk.

If you've had chickenpox, the Shingles virus is already inside you — and it could strike at any time.

The virus that causes chickenpox never leaves your body. Instead, it lies dormant in your nervous system and can reemerge as the painful rash of Shingles. When you're young, your immune system is usually strong enough to keep the virus in check. But, as you age, the immune system can weaken, allowing the Shingles virus to break through. That's why your risk for Shingles increases as you age.

You can't "catch" Shingles from another person.

Shingles cannot be passed on to another person by sneezing or coughing or through casual contact.
You can't "catch" Shingles. You can only develop Shingles if you've had chickenpox.

If you haven't had chickenpox and you have direct contact with another person's Shingles rash, you could get chickenpox. That's why anyone who has an active case of Shingles should stay away from newborns, people who have problems with their immune system, and people who haven't had chickenpox.

Your age is not the only thing that puts you at risk for Shingles.

Other factors and conditions can weaken your immune system, allowing the painful rash of Shingles to break through your defenses. For example, physical trauma, surgery, and medicines or chronic conditions that suppress your immune system can also increase your risk for Shingles.

Next: Shingles Risk Assessment

Don't wait until it's too late. Learn your risk for Shingles.