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EXCLUSIVE: Deborah Knight’s ‘strange sensation’ before shingles diagnosis

Though shingles affects 1 in 3, most people think they'll never have it - Deborah Knight was one of them.

Despite 1 in 3 people developing shingles in their lifetime in Australia, journalist, news veteran and radio host Deborah Knight never thought she would be one of them. However, in 2022, she was unexpectedly struck down with a bout of shingles.

“I’ve had lower back issues for quite a few years now since having children and my lower back was really playing up and I was almost bed bound because I was quite debilitated with pain,” Deborah recalls in a chat with The Weekly.

“At the same time, I’d been having this strange sensation on my face or my cheek feeling as though there was hair there or a spiderweb but there wasn’t anything there.”

Though she didn’t think that these two strange sensations were connected, Deborah says she was concerned nonetheless and proactively went to see her General Practitioner about it.

“I had also begun to notice there were a few marks on my face as well and I just thought, ‘Look, I’ll go talk to the doctor and find out what’s going on here.’”

As soon as she described these symptoms to her GP, Deborah was told that she was exhibiting classic signs of shingles.

“I was fortunate in that I went to my doctor within a really timely manner and got treatment pretty quickly,” Deborah says.

Deborah Knight shingles
Deborah Knight was diagnosed with shingles in 2022.

“But I was one of the lucky ones,” she adds. “People who don’t get treatment quickly enough can really have long-lasting effects, it can even lead to blindness

 “If I had had those marks on my face appear closer to my eye, it could have led to blindness.”

After her quick diagnosis, Deborah suffered from the effects of Shingles for a couple of weeks where she was struck down with back pain and depleted energy levels. However, for other people, Shingles can be extremely serious and even require hospitalisation.

Thankfully, Deborah says that she has been lucky to have only had a mild case of the illness.

“I thought it was just a condition that affected older people,” Deborah explains. 

“Every time I’ve been into a GP’s office, I’ve seen the Shingles posters that remind you to talk to your doctor but I just had these preconceived ideas about what Shingles was so I didn’t really connect the dots.”

Since her diagnosis in 2022, Deborah Knight has joined forces with GSK Australia‘s shingles Disease Awareness Campaign to raise awareness about the effects of the condition and to encourage people of any age to understand their shingles risk.

“It’s important you talk to your GP about it,” Deborah stresses. “If you’re going in to your doctor for a general check up or for whatever reason, just ask them about shingles.”

What is shingles?

Shingles is a condition that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus responsible for Chickenpox.

“If you’ve had chickenpox the virus can remain in your body, kept dormant by your immune system. As you age, there is a decline in your immunity that can leave you susceptible to the reactivation of the virus, and if this occurs, reactivation of the virus leads to shingles,” says Professor Cunningham, who is a leading expert and Director of the Centre for Virus Research (WIMR).

Who is at risk of shingles?

A survey conducted by GSK Australia shows that while 62 per cent of people perceive the impact of shingles as ‘extremely negative’, only 14 per cent believe that they themselves are extremely likely to be personally at risk of shingles in their lifetime.

Though shingles is typically thought of as a condition that only people over 60 get shingles, in actuality, anyone who has had Chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles.

Whilst anyone can develop shingles, it is true that the risk of the condition grows as you reach 50, 60 and 70, therefore it’s important to know the symptoms and reach out to your doctor should you experience those symptoms.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

Initially shingles symptoms can present as:

  • A burning, tingling or itching sensation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Inexplicable tiredness

Then, a few days after these initial symptoms, a rash will appear which will usually have itchy red bumps within it. These red bumps will quickly develop into fluid-filled blisters.

According to Health Direct, “This rash usually appears on one side of your body around a skin nerve (called a dermatome).”

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