Singaporean actor Nick Shen shares his painful experience of battling shingles


Actor Nick Shen said he developed symptoms as early as July, and that the pain was beyond description. Photo: Nick Shen/Instagram

Singaporean actor and opera practitioner Nick Shen has shared on social media his three-month battle against shingles to raise awareness of the condition.

In an Instagram post titled “My journey with shingles: recognising the early signs” last Friday, he wrote: “Before any visible rash appeared, I felt an odd combination of pain, itching, and tingling on my neck and ear – the very places where the rash would later emerge. Then came an unexpected fever, hinting that something wasn’t right.”

Shen, 47, said a doctor initially diagnosed it as erythema multiforme, a form of allergic skin reaction, and recommended hospitalisation.

He sought a second opinion and visited a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) skin specialist.

“While he wasn’t entirely certain it was shingles, he prescribed vinegar for topical application along with a lotion and traditional Chinese medicine,” Shen wrote. “That night, the rash spread across my neck, ear, face and half of my scalp. Despite using various creams, lotions and consuming the medicine, the pain intensified.”

Shen, who won the Singapore chapter of the Star Search talent contest in 1999, shared more last Saturday. “The pain is beyond description. It’s compelled me to pause my work, cancel events and withdraw from public appearances,” he wrote.

Shen told Lianhe Zaobao that more than one month after the onset of shingles, he was drinking water one day when liquid simply flowed out from his mouth.

He looked in the mirror and saw a dull look in his right eye. He tried to smile, but could not do so.

He went to a clinic and was advised to go to the hospital immediately.

“I went to the hospital within 24 hours after I discovered that the right side of my face was paralysed and stayed there for five days,” Shen told the Chinese-language daily.

According to the neurologist, as long as there are shingles on the face, it may affect the brain or facial nerves, leading to facial paralysis.

Shen told Zaobao that it has been about two weeks since his discharge, and he still has to use strength to blink. He would tape his right eyelid at night to prevent his eye from opening while he was asleep.

“You may get a bacterial infection if you open your eyes while sleeping,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t want any complications.”

He said on Instagram he has consulted more than 10 doctors – both Western and TCM specialists – during the journey.

What surprised him most is that none of his relatives and friends have talked about the seriousness of shingles or the availability of the vaccine. “My father, who had experienced shingles before, did not share this crucial information with me,” he wrote. “If only I had been aware of the vaccine earlier. It could have spared me this agonising pain and scarring.”

Shen said he was sharing his ongoing healing journey as he noticed that many people underestimated the gravity of shingles.

“I’m sharing my experience to raise awareness about this condition,” he wrote. “There’s also a zoster vaccine that can significantly reduce your risk. It’s worth considering.”

– The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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