Caused by HSV-1, ocular herpes or eye herpes is a common, recurring viral infection that affects the eyes. HSV-1 can result in inflammation as well as scarring of the cornea, which is sometimes referred to as cold sore on the eyes. Eye herpes can be spread via close contact with a person infected with herpes who’s actively shedding the virus.
The NEI (National Eye Institute) states that a projected 400,000 US citizens have undergone some form of eye herpes, with nearly 50,000 new and recurrent cases taking place annually.
Forms of Ocular Herpes
Ranging from a minor infection to an illness that can likely result in impaired vision, there are a number of forms of ocular herpes:
- Herpes keratitis, a viral corneal infection, is a common form of ocular herpes. Eye herpes in this form largely only affects the epithelium, or the top layer, of the cornea, and typically heals with no scarring.
- Stromal keratitis happens when the infection moves deeper into the corneal layers. The infection can result in loss of vision, scarring, and, sometimes, blindness. Stromal keratitis is believed to be a result of a delayed immune response to the initial infection. Though the condition is uncommon, the NEI states that the infection is the top cause of scarring of the cornea that subsequently results in blindness in the United States.
- Iridocyclitis is a severe form of ocular herpes where the iris, as well as surrounding tissues within the eye, become irritated, causing blurred vision, severe light sensitivity, red eyes, and pain. Iridocyclitis is a form of uveitis affecting the frontal portions of within the eye.
When this infection takes place in the inner lining of the back portion of the eye or the retina, it is called herpes retinitis.
Eye Herpes Signs and Symptoms
A number of symptoms and signs are associated with an eye herpes outbreak. You could experience corneal inflammation, which can give rise to irritation or severe and sudden pain in the eye. The cornea can also become cloudy, resulting in blurry vision.
The doctor could prescribe an antiviral eye drop like trifluridine. Another antiviral medication, Acyclovir (Zovirax) can be taken orally. Treatment ought to be commenced as soon as possible. Infections that give rise to deep inflammation may entail the use of corticosteroid drops or drops that cause eye dilation, such as scopolamine (Scopace) or atropine (Atreza).
Sometimes, to aid to hasten healing, an ophthalmologist could rub the corneal surface gently to eliminate viral antigens and the infectious virus that cause the keratitis. Because most HSV epithelial keratitis cases resolve spontaneously in three weeks, the treatment’s rationale is to reduce scarring and damage. Antiviral treatment, oral or topical, is an effective therapy for ocular herpes infections. Patients with recurrent ocular HSV could be placed on a long-standing treatment of oral antiviral medicine at a maintained dose to minimize this frequency.