Eye herpes and its causes

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Dr. Adib Moghaddam received the Lebanese Ophthalmology Society (LOS) Medal

Eye herpes Caused by the type 1 herpes simplex virus, eye herpes (ocular herpes) is a common, recurrent viral infection affecting the eyes. This type of herpes virus can cause inflammation and scarring of the cornea that sometimes is referred to as a cold sore on the eye. Herpes of the eye can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person whose virus is active.

Types of Eye Herpes

Ranging from a simple infection to a condition that can possibly cause blindness, there are several forms of eye herpes:

  • Herpes keratitis is the most common form of eye herpes and is a viral corneal infection. Ocular herpes in this form generally affects only the top layer, or the epithelium, of the cornea, and usually heals without scarring.
  • Stromal keratitis occurs when the infection goes deeper into the layers of the cornea. This can lead to scarring, loss of vision and, occasionally, blindness. Stromal keratitis is thought to be caused by a late immune response to the original infection.
  • Iridocyclitis is a serious form of eye herpes where the iris and surrounding tissues inside the eye become inflamed, causing severe sensitivity to light, blurred vision, pain and red eyes. Iridocyclitis is a type of uveitis that affects the more frontal portions of the inside of the eye. When this infection occurs in the retina or the inside lining of the back of the eye, it is known as herpes retinitis.

Eye Herpes Symptoms and Signs

Various signs and symptoms are associated with an ocular herpes outbreak. You may experience inflammation of the cornea, which can cause an irritation or sudden and severe ocular pain. Also, the cornea can become cloudy, leading to blurry vision. Other characteristics of eye herpes include:

  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Tearing
  • Recurrent eye infections
  • Irritation
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Eye redness
  • Eye sores
  • Watery eye discharge
  • Sensitivity to light

Due to these numerous symptoms, your eye doctor may overlook an initial diagnosis of ocular herpes in its very early stages.

What Causes Eye Herpes?

Eye herpes can cause inflammation and scarring of the eye’s clear surface (cornea). In an extreme case of damage from eye herpes, you might need a corneal transplant. The exact cause of an outbreak is unknown, but in the following, several causes will be infected with the Herpes Virus, which is the main cause of eye herpes.

  • Eye herpes is transmitted through contact with another person who is having an outbreak
  • through self-contact and contamination during an active herpes infection (such as a cold sore of the lip).
  • The herpes simplex virus enters the body through the nose or mouth and travels into the nerves, where it may be inactive. The virus can remain dormant for years and may never wake up.
  • stress-related factors such as fever, sunburn, major dental or surgical procedures and trauma are often associated with incidents.



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