Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus
Herpes zoster ophthalmicus, also known as ocular shingles, is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus responsible for chickenpox. The virus can remain dormant in the body for many years after an outbreak of chickenpox and may reactivate at another point in time. Commonly resulting in rashes on the body, shingles can also affect the eyes.
When the virus reactivates, it usually travels through nerve fibers to infect other parts of the body. The virus may travel to the upper part of the body, affecting the head and the neck. Almost 50 percent of those affected with shingles, in the head and neck area, have corneas that are infected with the virus.
Ocular shingles can occur in anyone exposed to the varicella-zoster virus but people with weakened immune systems or over 80 years of age and older have an increased risk of developing the illness.
Symptoms of Ocular Shingles
Ocular shingles often produces extreme pain on one side of the face, a rash or redness developing in the eye region or on the forehead, eye redness, inflammation of the eye and vision problems. If left untreated, ocular shingles can lead to the following:
- Corneal infection
- Corneal scarring
- Significant vision loss
Treatment of Ocular Shingles
Ocular shingles of the eye is often treated with antiviral eye drops or oral medication, depending on the area of the eye that is affected. If the medication is not administered within the first few days of the appearance of symptoms, it may not be effective. In some cases, steroid eye drops may be prescribed to relieve swelling. An ophthalmologist or cornea specialist should be consulted in order to manage this condition.