Following an overwhelming online response to his “ghastly” bout of shingles in 2018; TV presenter Eamonn Holmes has called for more awareness and understanding to fight the illness.
The 62-year-old knew nothing about shingles when he was struck with a nasty case, the day before his eldest son, Declan’s wedding.
The television presenter was left unable to work, shocking fans as he uploaded a photo of his painful-looking face on social media at the time.
Shingles is a painful rash affecting a specific area of skin caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox (varicella zoster) virus, which lies dormant in the nervous system following infection earlier in life.
And after publicly sharing his experience, he wishes he’d had a better idea about the exact nature and potential complications of the condition that threatened to wreck his son Declan’s big day.
“There was no escape,” said Holmes. “You couldn’t put on a shirt or a jacket and miss it. It was horrendous. I was going to be in all the pictures and must give a speech and that really ruined me because it was ghastly.
“I got a makeup artist on the day to try and cover me up, but I looked horrible.
“To this day I can’t look at those pictures and I feel sorry for them. The day was spoilt because I spent the whole day with people saying, what happened to you? What’s wrong with you? What’s that?
“People think it’s going to be contagious straightaway. To be truthful, then I couldn’t have said you will catch it, you won’t catch it – I just didn’t know about it.
“The thing is you won’t catch it. It’ll be unique to the sufferer, but I was unaware.”
Holmes is partnering with GSK to raise awareness of shingles and its potential complications as part of a new report, ‘Understanding Shingles’.
The report is part of GSK’s Understanding Shingles campaign, which is also being supported by the Shingles Support Society and Age UK.
The campaign revealed some significant gaps in the understanding of shingles, with almost half (48%) of participants incorrectly believing that you can catch shingles from someone else who has it.
“The worst bit was knowing that because I had it on my face, it was a danger to my vision,” added Holmes. “That was quite scary because I’d been told you can’t rub your eyes; you can’t touch this.
“There’s a danger it could affect your eyesight. Then of course you’re immediately thinking, oh my God, the worst it going to happen here.”
While most people recover fully, shingles can potentially lead to serious and long-lasting complications like postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
PHN is prolonged nerve pain in the area affected by shingles that can last for months or even longer and after the age of 50 years, about 20% of patients with shingles will develop PHN.
“And also, not knowing it was going to hit me,” continued Holmes. “Not really having an awareness. And why me?
“The point is that like everybody else, you could be at risk. 90% of people have had chickenpox and of those one in four will end up having shingles.
“Just to know that there is help available with the website understandingshingles.co.uk is a great comfort for anybody who may have such questions or queries.”
And after successful spinal surgery to treat chronic back pain, Holmes encouraged people to discuss their problems to raise awareness for conditions like shingles.
“I would put in the #ChronicPain as I lay in bed at night not being able to sleep because of back problems. And oh my God, people were almost saying thank you.
“And then, my pain would get better, because I realized no matter how bad it was, whatever I was suffering from there’s other people out there.”
Understanding Shingles is a campaign by GSK supported by Eammon Holmes and James Jordan, in partnership with the Shingles Support Society and Age UK. For more information visit www.understandingshingles.co.uk