Fight For Sight
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Herpes Eye Infections

Description of Herpes Eye Infections

There are two types of herpes virus which can affect the eye in different ways. The herpes zoster virus, commonly known as shingles, usually starts with a skin rash on one side of the head.This can spread into the eye causing an inflammation (iritis) or may cause increased pressure within the eye (glaucoma).The other herpes virus is herpes simplex which affects people globally and is characterised by the typical cold sore on the lips or in the mouth or by the whitlow on the fingers. Herpes simplex is highly contagious and can easily be transmitted by kissing and through mouth and hand contact. In the eye, it causes an infection of the conjunctiva (conjunctivitis) and in the cornea (keratitis) and usually results in a chronic corneal ulcer. As the virus can remain dormant in the cornea indefinitely, a reduction in immunity through stress can re-activate the virus with the recurrence of an ulcer. Multiple recurrences may eventually result in a scar of the cornea with a serious reduction of vision.

Symptoms of Herpes Eye Infections

Shingles affecting the eye usually starts with a dull aching pain in the side of the head followed by an erupting rash on the forehead, extending down to the eye. The onset of iritis and glaucoma are associated with redness and severe pain and blurred vision in the affected eye. Herpes simplex infection usually starts with increased sensitivity to light (photophobia), a watery eye discharge (conjunctivitis) and soreness and redness of the eye due to a corneal ulcer.

Treatment of Herpes Eye Infections

Shingles of the eye involves an initial course of antiviral tablets combined with antibiotics for secondary infection of the skin and eyes. Steroid drops are used for the iritis and anti glaucoma drops can be used in the event of the pressure rising. Herpes simplex infections and ulcers of the cornea demand immediate treatment with anti viral drops or ointments to the eye (Zovirax). These may sometimes be supplemented by the prescription of anti viral tablets. In eyes where the vision has become affected by scarring due to recurrent attacks by the virus, a corneal transplant may be required to restore health to the eye and improve sight.However with reference to both these viruses, prevention is still the best form of cure.