Herpes simplex eye infection is a type of keratitis caused by a form of herpes simplex virus (HSV). While many types of herpes are associated with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), herpes of the eye is not among them – herpes simplex is another name for the virus that can result cold sores. It is one of the most common viruses in the world, affecting a high percentage of the world’s population.
The most common risk of ocular herpes is cornea scarring. This can cause the normally transparent cornea to opacify, leading to diminished vision.
There are several different types of ocular herpes:
If you are suffering from an ocular herpes attack, the first sign will be an irritation in the eye. You may also experience sudden or gradual pain, as well as cloudy, blurred vision. Other symptoms include:
Direct contact with another person who is carrying the virus will put you at risk of contracting HSV, even though you may not suffer from any obvious symptoms. If you suffer from an attack, there is an approximate 50% chance of it recurring at some point.
While there is no specific cure, many treatments can help you to manage the infection and control further outbreaks. The form of treatment depends on where in the eye the herpes infection is located i.e. whether it is in the corneal epithelium, corneal stroma, iris, retina or elsewhere. For superficial infections, antiviral eye drops, ointments or debridement may be all that is required.
The herpes simplex virus is very common, yet it often remains dormant. It is always wise to avoid contact with anyone who is suffering from a cold sore or ocular herpes, to avoid contamination. However, if any of the symptoms occur it’s important to see a GP or optometrist as soon as possible.