Herpes Simplex Eye Infections

Herpes Simplex Virus is a very common virus that affects the skin, mucus, nervous system and eye. There are two types of the virus: Type I is the same type that produces herpes and can also affect the eye, and type II is transmitted through sexual contact and rarely causes eye problems.

Almost all children are exposed to the type I of herpes simplex virus during childhood. Primary infection is mild and usually causes sore throat or ulcer in the mouth and heals on its own. The virus usually remains dormant, hiding inside the nerve cells of the face, and is activated under certain conditions such as fever, stress, sunlight, hormonal changes, heat, stroke, and even the use of certain medications. If the virus recurs again, it may affect the eye that usually involves the eyelid (blepharitis), conjunctiva (conjunctivitis) and cornea (keratitis). Keratitis (corneal inflammation) is usually the first symptom of the disease and often affects the corneal surface. If the infection spreads to the deeper layers of the cornea, the risk of remaining the scar site on the cornea will increase. In some people, uveitis may also occur and rarely affect the retina.

What Are the Symptoms of Herpes Simplex Eye Infection?

• Pain in effected area

• Redness of the eye - mostly around the cornea

• Tearing

• Light sensitivity

• Reduced vision

• It usually affects one eye.

How Is Herpetic Eye Infection Diagnosed?

This infection can be diagnosed by using a slit lamp. Your ophthalmologist may use eye drops for more accurate diagnosis. In herpetic eye infections, there are usually multiple small branching dendritic ulcers on the surface of the cornea, which are not round and have no certain limitations, but they are like trees with many branches [like the schematic view of the dendritic corneal ulcer in people with herpetic keratitis].

How Is Herpetic Eye Infection Treated?

Treatment of this disease depends on its severity. The first eye infection caused by this virus is usually treated with eye drops and ointments, and sometimes oral antiviral drugs. Your ophthalmologist may wipe away infected cells from the cornea with a dry, cotton-tipped applicator. In people who experience recurrent episodes of herpes infections, the cornea, which is a transparent tissue, becomes cloudy. In this situation the patients may require corneal transplants to improve their vision and eliminate remaining corneal scars. If the infection affects the deeper layers of the cornea, your ophthalmologist may also prescribe corticosteroid drops (corticosteroids) that reduce inflammation, in addition to the above medications. Remember that corticosteroids should be prescribed by your ophthalmologist and should be used according to your ophthalmologist’s instruction, otherwise serious eye injuries will occur.

What Are Some Measures to Prevent Recurrences of Herpetic Eye Infections?

If it is likely to recur herpetic eye infections (once a year or more), your ophthalmologist usually recommends taking two antiviral pills daily for oral administration. Some people say that being exposed to sunlight causes the recurrence of the disease, so it is recommended to wear sunglasses.