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What causes shingles?

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In brief: Causes of Shingles

Shingles are caused by the zoster virus that also causes varicella.
After varicella sores heal, the virus lies dormant in nerves and may later become shingles. In other words, once you have had varicella, you are at risk of developing zoster.

As you age your immune system weakens, making it easier for zoster to break through your body’s defences. Therefore, the risk of zoster increases substantially as you age. Besides this, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, gout and rheumatoid arthritis have weakened immune systems and their risk for zoster is higher.

The first varicella vaccine was launched 20 years ago. Therefore, most people aged 50 or above have had varicella in the past. In Hong Kong, over 95% of people have had varicella and they are at a higher risk and are more likely to develop shingles. The risk is about one-third.

In brief: Causes of Shingles

Shingles are caused by the zoster virus that also causes varicella.
After varicella sores heal, the virus lies dormant in nerves and may later become shingles. In other words, once you have had varicella, you are at risk of developing zoster.

As you age your immune system weakens, making it easier for zoster to break through your body’s defences. Therefore, the risk of zoster increases substantially as you age. Besides this, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, gout and rheumatoid arthritis have weakened immune systems and their risk for zoster is higher.

The first varicella vaccine was launched 20 years ago. Therefore, most people aged 50 or above have had varicella in the past. In Hong Kong, over 95% of people have had varicella and they are at a higher risk and are more likely to develop shingles. The risk is about one-third.
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Dr. Christopher Crosby
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