Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Shingles Health Center

Font Size

Family History Ups Shingles Risk

Study Shows Shingles More Likely if Your Relative Had the Condition
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 19, 2008 -- A new study shows that people with shingles, or herpes zoster infection, are more than four times likely to have a first-degree relative with a history of the condition.

Shingles is a painful nerve condition linked to the chickenpox virus, varicella zoster. If you've ever had the chickenpox, the virus remains in your body, usually dormant. But in 10%-30% of people, the virus comes back along the nerves, typically causing a blistery rash and severe burning and tingling pain.

Shingles can affect anyone who has had chickenpox, but older adults and people with a weakened immune system are more likely to develop the condition. Stress, injury, and even exposure to heavy metals may increase your risk.

In recent years, research has suggested that a person's genes may make them more susceptible to developing shingles and other infectious diseases associated with decreased immunity. To further examine risk factors for herpes zoster beyond age and immunosuppression, Lindsey D. Hicks of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and colleagues compared 504 patients treated for herpes zoster with 523 people with other minor or chronic skin conditions. People with weakened immune systems were not included in the study.

The study appears in the May issue of Archives of Dermatology.

Participants answered questions about their personal and family histories of shingles and described any painful red rashes that they may have had in the past. If they answered yes to a family history of shingles, they researchers asked if the relative sought professional medical care for the condition. Additional questions focused on the specific medications, if any, prescribed to treat the shingles.

The analysis showed that those being treated for shingles were much more likely to report a family history of the condition. About 39% of the shingles patients said they had another relative with a history of the condition, compared with 10.5% of those in the comparison group.

The study suggests a strong association between the development of shingles and having a blood relative with a history of shingles, the researchers say in a news release. Offering shingles vaccination to at-risk individuals based on their family history may decrease both their chance of future herpes zoster infection and health care expenditures toward herpes zoster, they write.

The CDC now recommends the shingles vaccine Zostavax for people aged 60 and older.

Today on WebMD

varicella zoster virus
How to recognize this painful rash.
shingles rash
Symptoms, causes, and treatment.
nurse administering flu vaccine
8 questions, answered.
senior woman
Are you more likely to get it?
shingles rash
woman holding her lower back
New PHN Drug Cuts Lingering Shingles Pain
mature man with serious expression