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Herpes zoster ophthalmicus (shingles around the eye): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About herpes zoster ophthalmicus (shingles around the eye)

Herpes zoster ophthalmicus (shingles around the eye) is a viral infection of eyes and skin around the eyes. This is caused by varicella zoster virus which is also responsible for causing chicken pox infection. It usually results from reactivation of chicken pox virus in an individual who has a past history of chicken pox infection.

Herpes zoster ophthalmicus (shingles around the eye): Incidence, age and sex

Herpes zoster ophthalmicus infection is an uncommon occurrence. It mainly afflicts older adults. A past history of chicken pox infection especially during infancy is considered to cause this infection. It has the same rate of incidence in both men and women.

Signs and symptoms of herpes zoster ophthalmicus (shingles around the eye): Diagnosis

The clinical features of herpes zoster ophthalmicus include pain and tingling sensation of skin of forehead. This is followed by reddish skin rash which may progress to form painful fluid filled blisters on one side of face typically. These blisters eventually dry and form yellow crusts which usually fall off within days. The skin rashes around eye may be associated with increased sensitivity to light, tearing and redness of eye on affected side. Some individuals may also complain of swelling of eyelid. The skin lesions heal without scarring in most of the individuals.

Detailed history including past history of chicken pox infection along with clinical examination revealing typical presentation of rashes and eye involvement helps diagnoseherpes zoster ophthalmicus. In occasional cases where diagnosis is uncertain, immunological studies of skin may be done.

Causes and prevention of herpes zoster ophthalmicus (shingles around the eye)

Herpes zoster ophthalmicus is caused by varicella zoster virus which also causes chicken pox. Individuals who have had chicken pox in infancy are more susceptible to this infection. The chicken pox virus after causing chicken pox does not get killed or eliminated. Instead it remains in the roots of nerves in a dormant state. Certain triggering factors like weakened immunity may cause reactivation of virus years later to cause herpes zoster or herpes zoster ophthalmicus.

Herpes zoster ophthalmicus (shingles around the eye): Complications

The complications of Herpes zoster ophthalmicus include damage to cornea which is the transparent film in front of eye. This may result in significant impairment of vision. Moreover the infection may also spread to surrounding eye tissues leading to uveitis.

Herpes zoster ophthalmicus (shingles around the eye): Treatment

The management of herpes zoster ophthalmicus infection includes antiviral drugs (Acyclovir, Famcyclovir) which can be taken orally as well as in form of topical eye drops. Atropine eye drops which causes dilatation of pupils may also be considered to provide symptomatic relief. Steroid eye drops may also be considered if above measures do not provide adequate relief. The eye infection resolves completely in a few weeks.