Pain so extreme he couldn't sleep

Pain so extreme he couldn't sleep
Chemical engineer Pericles Lagonikos, 52, who suffered from shingles for about three years had rashes and blisters on the right side of his neck and face, followed by facial paralysis and long-term nerve pain. He has since fully recovered. Photo: TNP

For three years, he suffered intense nerve pain from shingles.

Mr Pericles Lagonikos, 52, had shingles on the right side of his neck and face.

The chemical engineer, who is from Greece, experienced the most severe type of pain one could get from shingles - postherpetic neuralgia, or long-term nerve pain.

Mr Lagonikos, who eventually recovered fully in 2009, shared his three-year experience with shingles at a media presentation at Raffles Hospital yesterday.

The findings of a study on the skin condition was also presented at the event.

The MSD-Raffles Hospital Shingles Study analysed records of 51 shingles patients aged 50 and above from Raffles Hospital.

Recounting his ordeal, Mr Lagonikos said he first had rashes and blisters on his neck and face about nine years ago.

About a month later, when the rashes and blisters were healing, he had facial paralysis, meaning that he had no control of his facial muscles.

As a result, his face drooped down on one side and he had difficulties speaking, eating and drinking.

"I had to speak slowly as my tongue was paralysed on the right side. I had to avoid having soups, curry and food with a lot of sauce, as it would get all over my face. I also had to use a straw when drinking so that the liquid wouldn't spill," he recounted.

Mr Lagonikos' facial paralysis healed in a month, but more pain was to come.

"My nerves felt like they were on fire. In the first week of neuralgia, the pain was so extreme that I couldn't sleep at all," he added.


To reduce the pain, he applied topical anesthetic which was prescribed by his doctor.

The first three months of neuralgia were the worst but the pain eventually subsided.

Mr Lagonikos' ordeal also meant that he mostly stayed at home and at work. "I couldn't exercise, I couldn't go out under the sun... and I didn't go out to party late at night," he said.

Fortunately, he has made a full recovery, and the skin on his face and neck are not scarred.

Talking about how there was no vaccine for shingles when he suffered from it, Mr Lagonikos said that he felt the painful sensations from it every day.

"It is not a pretty thing to live with for a long time," he said.

What are shingles?

Shingles is a painful rash and it often comes with blisters.

The condition is caused by the varicella zoster virus that also causes chickenpox.

The MSD-Raffles Hospital Shingles Study analysed records of 51 shingles patients aged 50 and above from Raffles Hospital.

These patients, all of whom had anti-viral prescriptions, were treated at the hospital between January 2010 and March 2013.

The study revealed the following:

- The most common site of shingles was the torso (47 per cent), followed by the facial area 29 per cent).

- About seven in 10 patients experienced pain, and some of them experienced the most severe type of pain for more than a month.

- Prescription costs were higher among older patients.

The average total treatment cost per patient at Raffles Hospital was $471. Patients who had to be hospitalised paid about $3,088 at the private hospital.


A shingles rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and lasts for about two weeks, said Dr Ho Kok Yuen, Clinical Director of Raffles Hospital's Pain Management Service.

Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of shingles, added Dr Ho.

It is also important to note that in Singapore, the risk of shingles for those above 25 years old stands at around 88 per cent.

One in three people worldwide will develop shingles in their lifetime.

Shingles patients can still experience nerve pain for months or even years after their rashes heal.

The loss of vision is another potential complication of shingles, which can lead to blindness and eye damage.

To prevent shingles, Dr Ho recommends the Zoster Vaccine for individuals aged 50 and above.It is a live vaccine that has been available in Singapore since 2013.

Young children should also get vaccinated for chickenpox, he added.

This article was first published on July 7, 2015.
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