For a condition that one in three people will develop in their lives, we don't hear much about shingles.
But the viral infection that causes an agonising rash - and in one in ten cases leads to nasty complications - is finally getting its moment in the spotlight.
This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes, 61, opened up in an appearance on ITV's Loose Women this week. Revealing that he had been diagnosed with shingles in 2018, and forced to remain off air until he recovered, Holmes explained that the illness had 'ruined' his son;'s wedding pictures. He shared a personal image from his Instagram account (below) and said:
“It was the first marriage in the family and that was what I looked like on the wedding day and I had to have that covered up.
“So you can imagine, I ruined all the pictures, I didn't want to be in them. I didn’t want to be the centre of attention with all this."
Holmes added, “The timing was awful. The dangerous thing about mine was that if it's on your face, it can affect, maybe impair, your eyesight.”
“I would think, ‘Goodness me, that’s awful’ but I never thought it was coming my way."
He described the experience of waking up one morning and feeling something similar to cold sores across his entire face - and a shooting pain.
“It was like a Hammer horror film,” he said. "... like some hideous movie, where you feel your face and you go, ‘What’s that?’. I remember going to the bathroom mirror and jumping back in horror.”
Though he made a full recovery, he captioned the alarming photo "you don't want to (get it)."
Shingles is a viral infection which causes a painful, sore rash. It's triggered by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), one of the herpes family of viruses. Unsightly and distressing, the skin breaks out in fluid-filled blisters, and the rash may be accompanied by fever, fever, fatigue, or a migraine- like headache.
It's infectious, and is more likely to strike in those whose immune systems are suppressed or in older people, while being 'run down' often precedes a bout.
Stars who have spoken about their shingles experiences include US TV star David Letterman, who contracted the virus back in 2003 and before his diagnosis explained that his eye had swollen and said, “I look like somebody gave me a beating...it’s either an irritation, inflammation or infection … For the love of God, does it hurt!”
Sir Cliff Richard, 80, also suffered with shingles after an unfounded accusation of abuse.
"Within six months of the allegation I had shingles all over my head and face," he said.
"It looked so horrible I thought, ‘I can’t believe it is happening’.”
Another TV presenter, Andi Peters contracted shingles at the start of 2020 and was concerned about COVID-19.
“My 2020 has been ridiculous, it started with shingles for two weeks," he revealed, joking, "even Piers [Morgan] was worried.
“I was lucky, I had it quite bad but not as bad as some people, who have no nerve endings for months.
“I was very worried that after that, my immune system would be really, really low and I would be more susceptible to coronavirus."
Though Peters had to take sick leave for the first time in 20 years, he's now fully recovered.
Hollywood star and creator of Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda also suffered with the virus. The Northern Lights and Mary Poppins Returns actor was forced to quarantine away from his new baby until he recovered.
What are the symptoms?
Tingling or pain in an area of the skin
Feeling generally fatigued/unwell
A few days later, pink/red blotches appear, usually on the torso, and on only one side.
They will then blister and scab.
What can you do?
The NHS advises:
Call 111, and if necessary arrange an appointment to speak to a doctor
Keep the rash clean
Use a cool compress on the skin
Stay off work, school or college until the rash has dried and you're not longer infectious.
It can take up to four weeks to fully heal.
Can I be vaccinated?
If you are over 70 or suffer certain conditions a vaccine may be available. Ask your GP for advice.
What's the treatment?
Treatment of shingles includes an antiviral medication (such as acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir) and pain medications (such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, tramadol, or oxycodone).
What are the complications
Continued pain (called postherpetic neuralgia) in the area of the rash, even after it has disappeared
Eye infection and inflammation which, although rare, can lead to vision loss
Ear inflammation and pain
Meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain)
Bacterial skin infection
It's important to know that if you have shingles, you can give the chickenpox virus to someone who's not had it before. It's vital to avoid pregnant women, those with a weakened immune system and newborn babies.