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Will My Shingles Come Back?

If you've had shingles once, you probably won’t get it again.

That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, it’s just unlikely. Also called herpes zoster, shingles can come back a second or, rarely, a third time. But you can take steps to help prevent it, or ease it the next time around.

Recommended Related to Shingles

Shingles: Are You Risking Nerve Pain?

Shingles, a viral infection of the nerve roots, affects 1 million people in the U.S each year. Most people recover from their bout, but for as many as 50% of those over age 60 who have not been treated, the pain doesn't go away. It can last for months, years, or even the rest of their lives. These people have what's called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the result of the shingles virus damaging the nerves of the skin. In some cases, the pain is mild. In others, even the slightest touch -- from...

Read the Shingles: Are You Risking Nerve Pain? article > >

How Often Does Shingles Return?

Experts don't know exactly how many people get shingles more than once. They do know it comes back more often in people with weakened immune systems.

If your immune system is healthy:

  • Your short-term chances of getting shingles again are very low. One study of people over age 60 found that only 1% got shingles again within about 3 years. Having shingles once lowers your chances of getting it a second time, at least for a while.
  • Over time, your chances of a second bout go up. Another study found that within 7 years, the odds of getting it again may be almost 6% in people 22 and older. That's about the same as the odds of getting shingles the first time.

Who Is Most Likely to Get Shingles Again?

You're more likely to get it again if:

  • You had severe pain from shingles that lasted more than 30 days. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN).
  • You are a woman.
  • You were 50 or older when you had shingles the first time.
  • Your immune system is weak from conditions like leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV, or you take medicines that suppress your immune system.
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