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Diseases & Conditions
Can you get shingles more than once?
- By Toni Golen, MD, Contributor, and
- Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch
Ask the doctors
Q. I already had shingles, but I’m starting to notice similar symptoms. Is it possible to get shingles more than once?
A. Yes: although it’s uncommon, you can get shingles multiple times. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus sticks around in your body after chickenpox symptoms go away, lying dormant in your nerves, held in check by your immune system. It can re-emerge years or decades later as shingles, a painful blistering rash, most commonly on the torso or the side of your face. It may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as headache, fever, or fatigue. While the initial symptoms usually last one to three weeks, the dreaded complication is long-lasting pain in the same area (post-herpetic neuralgia). Your risk of shingles starts to rise at age 50 and continues to increase over time. For this reason, doctors recommend that people over age 50 consider being vaccinated against shingles. The newest shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is 90% effective in preventing the disease. You should be vaccinated even if you have previously been vaccinated with older vaccine Zostavax or already had shingles, since it is possible for it to recur.
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This Harvard Medical School Guide takes a detailed look at shingles and the virus that causes
it—its symptoms, how it’s transmitted, how to reduce your chances of getting it, and how to manage the condition if you do get sick.
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