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Risk Factors for Shingles

Anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk for having shingles, an infection that causes a painful rash. That is because both chicken pox and shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus. 

Sarah A. Aydt, MD, FAAP, FACP
Sarah A. Aydt, MD, FAAP, FACP

“After you have had chicken pox, the virus lies dormant in the body’s dorsal nerve roots,” says Sarah A. Aydt, MD, FAAP, FACP, internal medicine physician and pediatrician at Saint Francis Medical Center. “As you age, your immune system becomes less competent and cannot keep the virus in check as easily as it once could. In addition to aging, conditions such as having cancer or diabetes or using steroid treatments can also weaken the immune system.”

Doctors now offer a varicella-zoster vaccination to children who are at least 1 year old, and a booster to children who are 4 to 6 years old. The vaccination prevents chicken pox and reduces the occurrence of shingles.

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