Herpes simplex eye infection
Most people are infected with Herpes virus. The virus is hidden, in a dormant state, forever, in nerves deep in the body. Under certain conditions (emotional stress, physical stress, fever, overexposure to sunlight, etc.) the virus awakens and travels along the nerve to reach the skin and cause “cold sores” around the mouth (HSV type 1) and genital sores (HSV Type 2). Occasionally, the virus travels along a different branch of the nerve and reaches the eye where it causes eye inflammation (frequently Herpes keratitis). Both viruses may cause an eye infection but the cold sore virus is the usual culprit.
The eye usually becomes pink and sore (some older patients may not show that). Blurring of vision, tearing, irritation and intolerance to light are frequent.
The infection may heal without treatment or it may progress to corneal ulcers and scars which may require corneal transplant. Medications to control the eye infection are available. They must be used as prescribed. They cure the eye but do not eliminate the virus hiding in the nerves.
When the eye infection heals the virus still remains dormant in the nerve and may become reactivated and cause another episode of eye infection. Recurrence rate is about 40%. Should you again experience blurred vision, discomfort, reddening of the eye or light intolerance, calls us. Tell the receptionist that your herpes infection is coming back and that you need to be seen promptly.
Herpes is highly contagious. It may be passed to others through skin contact with the sore or by fingers contaminated with tears. Contaminated fingers can also pass the infection to your other eye.
- Wash hands often; ALWAYS after touching infected areas.
- Seek treatment promptly.
- Use medicines as prescribed.
- Avoid situations that you know cause recurrences.
Using drops and applying ointment.