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Herpes simplex eye disease: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About herpes simplex eye disease

Herpes simplex eye disease also known as ‘herpes keratitis’ is a common viral infection of the eyes. It is caused by Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1; though Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 has also been implicated in rare cases. Herpes simplex eye disease is a contagious infection.

Herpes simplex eye disease: Incidence, age and sex

Herpes simplex eye disease is commonly seen in children. However it may afflict an individual of any age. It has the same preponderance in both males and females.

Signs and symptoms of herpes simplex eye disease: Diagnosis

Herpes simplex eye disease can involve the conjunctiva, the cornea and the eyelids. The clinical features include pain, redness and watering of eyes followed by increased sensitivity to light (photophobia). Affected individuals may also complain of impairment in vision.

The eye must be examined by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) to confirm the diagnosis. Slit lamp examination of eye is generally done to establish the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of herpes simplex eye disease

There are two types of herpes simples viruses namely Herpes Simplex Type 1 (HSV 1) and Herpes Simplex Type 2 (HSV 2) of which HSV 1 is responsible for oral skin sores and eye disease. On the other hand, HSV 2 causes genital lesions. However in rare instances, eye disease can also be caused by HSV 2.

Herpes simplex eye disease is an infectious ailment which is spread via salivary secretions. Thus,it is essential to avoid sharing drinking utensils and having close personal contact with the infectious individual.

Herpes simplex eye disease: Complications

Herpes simplex eye disease mainly affects the cornea which is the transparent film in front of the eye. Long-standing eye infection may lead to permanent damage to cornea resulting in significant impairment of vision. Moreover the infection may also spread to surrounding eye tissues leading to uveitis.

Herpes simplex eye disease: Treatment

The management of herpes eye disease involves the skills of internist as well as that of ophthalmologist. Anti-viral drugs (Acyclovir, Famcyclovir) may be prescribed to the affected individual. They can be taken orally as well as in form of topical eye drops. Atropine eye drops which cause dilatation of pupils may also be considered to provide symptomatic relief. Diseased cells on the surface of the cornea can be scraped off by an eye specialist to restore normal vision. Rarely, the cornea may get irreversibly damaged, resulting in permanent scarring. Such cases may require corneal transplant to restore vision. But in most of the instances, herpes simplex eye disease may resolve completely with anti-viral treatment.