What is eye herpes?

Eye herpes, or ocular herpes, is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Herpes infections that affect the eye are usually caused by HSV type 1 infections, which are also a common cause of cold sores and blisters on the face, rather than type 2 infections, which affect the genitals. In rare cases, an infant can develop an HSV 2 infection during birth when the mother is infected.

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HSV type 1 herpes infections are very common, with approximately 25 million people in the United States being affected each year. Of that population, about 400,000 have had infections in the eye, and about 50,000 will show evidence of an initial infection or flare-up each year (Source: NEI).

Eye herpes most commonly affects the clear outer layer of the eye (cornea). However, it is also possible, although rare, for the herpes infection to affect the inner layers of the eye.

The cause for the initial development of a type 1 herpes infection is not completely understood, but it is thought that a majority of people are exposed to the virus early in life, with or without symptoms, and that the virus then remains dormant for extended periods of time. The development of symptoms related to the herpes virus signals the activation of the virus; however, not everyone exposed to the herpes virus will develop an outbreak of the typical blister-like sores. The reasons for an outbreak of blisters are not known, although populations with weakened immune systems may be more susceptible to developing outbreaks. Persons who have developed a herpes infection in the eye are at risk for recurrent infections.

Seek prompt medical treatment for a herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 infection. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience other serious symptoms in connection with your herpes symptoms, including sweating, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), or change in level of consciousness, or if you have sudden blurring of vision or change in vision.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of eye herpes?

Several common symptoms often occur in an eye herpes infection. If you develop any of these symptoms, you should contact your health care provider to prevent permanent damage to the eye.... Read more about eye herpessymptoms

CAUSES

What causes eye herpes?

Eye herpes is caused by infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV), usually type 1. Symptoms can appear soon after infection or at any later time. It is believed that the majority of the population is exposed to HSV at some point in their life, usually during childhood. However, the virus can remain dormant for extended periods of time. When the virus reactivates, it can cause a herpes outbreak, including possible eye infection.... Read more about eye herpescauses

TREATMENTS

How is eye herpes treated?

Treatment for eye herpes begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. Eye herpes is typically treated with antiviral eye drops or topical ointments. More severe cases may be treated with steroid drops. Your doctor may also try to remove affected cells manually by brushing them off of your cornea with a cotton swab.... Read more about eye herpestreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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