Eamonn Holmes: ‘I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t brush my teeth’ – star’s ‘horrific’ infection

Eamonn Holmes opens up on impact of having shingles

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Talking exclusively to Express.co.uk Eamonn spoke about the importance of Shingles Awareness Week, a campaign run by GSK which he is supporting this year. The campaign comes as a recent survey of more than 2000 UK adults demonstrated significant gaps in understanding of shingles. Of the people surveyed, only 65 percent correctly identified shingles as a rash caused by a virus and only 55 percent associated shingles with pain in an area of the skin, which is one of the most common symptoms. Even Eamonn admitted that when waking up to a rash on his face, he was “shocked” at the blisters on his face, and immediately rang his doctor to figure out what was going on.

When asked what his reaction to his shingles was, Eamonn replied: “When I woke up I had this funny feeling in my face and I went to the bathroom and literally jumped back in horror and thought ‘what on earth is this!’.

“It was pretty quasimodo-like, and I was shocked at the blisters. It was pretty damaging so I obviously went to my doctor straight away.”

The NHS explains that the first signs of shingles can either be a tingling painful feeling in an area of skin, or a headache and generally feeling unwell.

Usually individuals get the shingles rash on your chest and tummy, but it can appear anywhere on your body including on your face, eyes and genitals, which is what happened to Eamonn.

“It was bad for me because I couldn’t shave, I couldn’t open my mouth to eat properly, I couldn’t brush my teeth. It had impacted my eyes and my eyelids, and that was the really dangerous bit,” Eammon continued to explain.

“People worry that the infection could spread to your optic nerves so it is more serious if it is on your face and around your eyes than it would be if it was on your body.”

Due to the nature of his job, Eamonn admitted that he “couldn’t go on telly” as “all anyone would have seen would have been the sores on [his] face.” But perhaps even worse for the star, was the fact he had to attend his son’s wedding, the first of his children to get married.

Explaining how hard he found the experience Eamonn said: “A few days after my diagnosis it was going to be my son’s wedding, and obviously being the father of the groom I was going to be in a lot of photographs. And I just knew it was awful.

“I got a makeup artist and they tried to cover it up, but it wasn’t, it was just awful. To this day I can’t look at those wedding photos because I just knew that I spoiled the day and I was the centre of attention which I didn’t want to be.

“I felt like having a sign around my neck that read ‘I have shingles. And yes it is pretty sore. It is not contagious. So please talk about something else’.”

Although feeling self-conscious about the physical symptoms the infection caused, Eammon went on to say that his interaction with the infection was “below par,” as he didn’t seem to suffer with any other symptoms.

For some, a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia can cause lasting pain in the areas of the skin where they had shingles. The NHS explains that around one in five people with shingles will get post-herpetic neuralgia, with people aged 50 and over being particularly at risk.

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Pain is intermittent or continuous in an area of your skin and has been described as burning, stabbing, shooting, aching, throbbing or like electric shocks. The affected area may also:

  • Feel intensely itchy
  • Be more sensitive to pain than usual
  • Feel painful as a result of something that would not normally hurt, such as a light touch or cool breeze.

“I believe that my immune system was rundown which is why I got it in the first place,” Eamonn added. “But my main concern and obsession was how I was looking, would it go into my eyes, and how do I cover it up. I was so obsessed with all of that, that if there was any other symptoms I wasn’t actively aware of them.

“Within two weeks it had cleared up. You get these strong antiviral tablets that basically dry up the blisters. It is like if you have ever had a cold sore. It was like that but multiplied by 100.”

When asked if he would ever consider getting the shingles vaccination, which is available on the NHS for people in their 70s, but can be given to anyone, Eammon replied: “I’ve talked about it to my doctor and I think that is something definitely that I would do. Although you probably won’t get the infection again, I would see what my doctor says.”

Although the condition is typically treatable, Shingles Support Society director Marian Nicholson warned Express.co.uk that after 72 hours of infection, it is difficult to cure shingles, making it crucial that individuals seek medical advice as soon as they start to feel or notice symptoms. Marian said: “I want people to be aware that treatment needs to start as soon as possible.

“If more than 72 hours has elapsed between you first noticing your feelings and you getting hold of the pills, they will not really do much good at all. Doctors will often be polite and give you the antiviral pills anyway, but we don’t expect them to really do any good.”

By getting behind shingles awareness week, Eamonn hopes that people will understand the risks involved with the condition. He added: “When you hit 50 you realise that certain things change. Your hearing might be different, your eyesight, your hair and you could be getting new aches and pains. So when you get to 50 just be aware of yourself and monitor your health.

“You’re vulnerable to shingles just keep an eye on it and go to your doctor as they can give youtube best advice to keep abreast of things.”

Shingles Awareness Week runs from February 28th-March 6th. Understanding Shingles is a campaign supported by Eammon Holmes together with GSK and the Shingles Support Society. For more information visit www.understandingshingles.co.uk

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