Herpes in the eye

Knowledge about

Herpes is a well-known disorder in the whole world and the contagious virus is quite common among the population, but far from all feels the virus throughout their life.

Herpes is best known for causing cold sores on the lips, but outbreaks of herpes can occur other places on your body as well. The virus can appear in many different places on the body, and therefore it is also possible to get herpes in the mouth, on the skin and even in the eyes.

Can you get herpes in the eye?

You can get herpes in the eyes. In the professional medical language the infection is called herpes keratitis. Usually, herpes simplex appears as small blisters on the skin that turn into sores when the blisters burst. But when it comes to herpes in the eyes, the symptoms will often show up in a different way, which you can read more about below.

Herpes virus stays in your body for life. Some people will be very affected by the virus and some will not feel anything significant about the virus at all. The virus goes dormant, and 80% of the infected will never notice the virus, while the unfortunate last 20% will experience outbreaks at different time intervals throughout most of their lives. Nobody knows which factors determine which group you will belong to and therefore there is not much you can do about it.

If you are one of the unfortunate 20% nobody knows who will suffer from many outbreaks at short intervals and who will only have one or two outbreaks a year. However, there are a number of factors that play a role when it comes to the risk of having an outbreak. A weakened immune system, stress, menstruation and strong exposure to sunshine are factors known to provoke an outbreak of herpes.

What is herpes keratitis?

Herpes keratitis means inflammation of the cornea of ​​the eye and is also known as keratitis. The inflammation is caused by herpes simplex virus in the eye, and when it breaks out, it will cause different symptoms. At first herpes in the eye causes inflammation of the cornea. In addition, the eyelids, conjunctiva, iris and retina can also be affected. This will cause pain and redness of the eyes and blurred vision. Herpes keratitis is contagious in the same way as other forms of herpes. Herpes in the eye will often spread through tear fluid and it is important that you are very careful to wash your hands often and refrain from touching the area of ​​the skin/eyes that has herpes outbreaks.

How does herpes infect the eye? When we look at herpes in general, the virus is transmitted by skin contact or mucous membrane contact. But how do you get herpes in the eye? Having herpes in the eye, it is often the tear fluid that poses a risk of infection. Herpes on the skin next to the eye will typically infect when you touch the skin and transmit the virus not washing hands.  What does corneal inflammation feel like? If you have herpes in one or both eyes it is not a serious condition, but it can threaten your sight if the infection develops.  It is important that you go to the doctor if you get symptoms like the ones we describe below. Most cases go away on their own after a while, but you must  be extra careful not letting the disease develop. The typical herpes in the eye symptoms are lightheadedness and squinting of the eyes. In addition, the virus can cause increased tearing, reduced vision and pain and redness in the eye. You may experience reduced vision because the virus enters and affects the central vision. Typically, it will only be experienced on one eye and the reason is small wounds that occur on the cornea during inflammation. If you experience that the virus causes an outbreak in the eye, do not fear a large cold sore in the eye. This is not the case, but instead you get tiny wounds that you cannot see.

Herpes in the eye treatment

It is possible to treat herpes in the eyes, a so-called herpes keratitis treatment. Most often, the treatment takes place in an eye department, where an attempt is made to stop the infection and reduce the inflammation. Typically, an eye ointment and/or eye drops are used to provide relief.
In more severe cases, it may be necessary to remove the damaged cells. It is done under local anesthesia with eye drops, after which the doctor can remove them. In rare cases, a surgical procedure may be necessary to remove opacities on the cornea.

For people who experience frequent cases of keratitis, preventive treatment may be necessary. This treatment you will decide with a specialist.

Can you get herpes on the eyelid?

There is not only a risk of herpes virus in the eye. You can also risk getting herpes under the eye or herpes near the eye. You will not necessarily get corneal inflammation as this is in the cornea itself. Many will experience cold sores around the eye. It will appear as the small blisters, which herpes is well known for. They will subsequently turn into a cold sore near the eye.

Herpes around the eyes can be treated with cream from the doctor and you will get the cream on prescription. You can also choose over-the-counter remedies that prevent and relieve. It is important to state that herpes cannot be cured. The outbreaks can be treated, and treatment can shorten the period of outbreaks and relieve the pain.

Can I get herpes zoster in the eye?

Herpes zoster is another type of herpes virus that is also known as shingles. As the name suggests, this is a form of herpes that can be very painful. Herpes zoster typically causes a rash over parts or the whole body and can also appear in the eye. The medical name for this is zoster ophthalmicus, which occurs as an inflammatory condition in some of the many sensory nerves that go to your eye.

The symptoms are a tingling or pricking sensation in the skin around your eye. It also appears on the side of the nose, in the temple or on the forehead. Subsequently, a rash, blisters and sores will appear and the person afflicted by the disease will also experience symptoms such as nausea and fever.

The medical treatment can be antiviral tablets, which inhibit the virus’s ability to reproduce. The doctor may also prescribe eye ointment or drops to relieve an outbreak.

Herpes in the eye-duration

The duration of herpes around the eyes or in the eyes. The inflammation will typically heal by itself and will last 1-2 weeks if it is a superficial inflammation. If your immune system is weak or the inflammation is worse, it may take more than 2 weeks to heal. Considering this it is important that  you contact the doctor if you experience severe symptoms of herpes in or around the eyes and do not experience improvement in a week.