Statins do not cause shingles, but people who take them may have an increased risk of shingles reactivation.

If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend taking a statin drug to help prevent heart disease and stroke by lowering your high cholesterol levels.

Some research suggests that people who take statins may have an increased risk of developing shingles, but research is still needed to definitively explain the connection. Learn more about the possible link between statins and shingles.

A 2014 Canadian study investigated a possible link between statins and shingles.

Researchers compared 494,651 adults who had taken statins to an equal number of people who hadn’t taken those drugs. Then, they looked at how many people in each group were diagnosed with shingles. All study participants were at least 66 years old.

Results showed that the participants who took statins had a slightly higher risk of shingles than those who hadn’t taken them. The authors suggested that statins may increase the risk of shingles by lowering immunity. Statins may also make VZV more likely to reactivate.

A 2018 study from South Korea compared 25,726 statin users with 25,726 people who don’t use the drugs. Study participants were adults ages 18 years old and up.

The researchers found that, in general, people who took statins were 25% more likely to develop shingles. If the statin users were more than 70 years old, they were 39% more likely to develop shingles.

Both of these studies took place over at least 11 years.

Additional research into the link between statins and shingles is needed. Some researchers have suggested the relationship between statins and shingles may be more complex, with other contributing factors. These may include:

High cholesterol

A 2014 letter to the editor proposed that the increased risk of shingles could be due to high cholesterol levels rather than the statin drugs used to treat them.

Genetic variant

The letter writers suggested that an increased risk of shingles might also be the result of a gene variant called APOE4. This variant could affect immunity against the reactivation of VZV. People with high cholesterol are more likely to have this variant.

Learn more about factors that can cause shingles reactivation.

You can take measures to lower your risk of getting shingles. One of the best ways to avoid this disease is to get vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that healthy people over 50 years old get the vaccine Shingrix. This vaccine lowers your chance of getting shingles. If you get vaccinated and still get shingles, the vaccine makes your outbreak shorter and less severe.

Learn more about the shingles vaccine.

Exceptions to this rule exist. If you are under 50 years old and immunocompromised, a doctor may recommend the shingles vaccine.

Statins are effective drugs that help lower high cholesterol levels. A doctor will most likely recommend statins for you based on your risk factors for heart attack or stroke. These factors include:

Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about your risk of shingles from statin use. They can help you weigh the risks and benefits according to your individual health history. They can also help you take all of the steps you can to avoid shingles, such as getting vaccinated.