Forms of eye herpes and treatments

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In the U.S., it is estimated that each year there are 50,000 new and recurring cases of eye herpes, which are caused by the type 1 herpes simplex virus. It is also known as ocular herpes and herpes keratitis. Briefly speaking, it is an eye infection but the inflammation caused by the herpes virus can spread from the eye’s surface layers to deeper parts of the cornea if no proper treatment is applied. Active herpes virus in the eye can be contagious through close contact, bringing inflammation and scarring of the cornea.

Symptoms and characteristics of eye herpes

Eye herpes have other symptoms, such as irritation, sudden and severe ocular pain, cloudy cornea and blurry vision, scratchy sensation in the eye, sore and red eye, and headache. Ocular herpes is easy to diagnose since it is associated with a variety of obvious characteristics, e.g. eye swelling, tearing, foreign body sensation, red eye, watery discharge and light sensitivity. Knowing some of these common features of eye herpes, it is possible to take a home diagnostic testing before visiting an ophthalmologist.

Eye herpes in different forms

Ocular herpes has several types with respective severities. As a viral corneal infection, herpes keratitis only affects the top layer of the cornea. It will disappear on its own. Stromal keratitis involves the deeper layer of the cornea. This rare condition is caused by a late immune response to the original infection. Stromal keratitis can lead to severe conditions such as scarring, vision loss or even blindness. Iridocyclitis brings light sensitivity, blurry vision and pain. This type of eye herpes always inflames the iris and surrounding tissues.

Some factors that trigger eye herpes

Through mouth and nose, the herpes simplex virus enters the body and travels into nerves. Some factors are thought to trigger inactive virus, resulting in contagious eye herpes. Those reasons include fever, sunburn, major dental procedures and trauma. An initial outbreak of eye herpes brings a 40-50 percent of recurrence without specific time frame. The recurring period varies from several weeks to even several years. Active eye herpes is high contagious. It can spread from one eye to the other and among individuals.

How to treat eye herpes in different severities

As mentioned before, different types of eye herpes cause infections that affect different eye parts such as corneal epithelium, corneal stroma, iris, retina etc. Involving different ocular parts, eye herpes appears in different degrees of severity which require related treatments.

Anti-viral eye drops and ointments are enough to treat superficial corneal infections. With a cotton swab, your doctor will remove the infected corneal epithelial cells, which is named debridement. If eye herpes has caused infections in deeper corneal layers, steroid drops are commonly applied. Steroid drops can eliminate inflammation and prevent corneal scarring. Unfortunately, these drops are suspected to harm the eye’s immune system and cause recurrent eye herpes in susceptible patients. When it comes to more severe eye herpes that causes scarring in the cornea, steroid is incompetent. Instead, it is necessary to receive a corneal transplant which can restore vision caused by permanent corneal scarring.