Eye Herpes

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Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Hospital Fatimah Ipoh
Dr S.S. Gill

EYE HEALTH

Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us about EYE HERPES.

Eye Herpes is a viral infection of the eye caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). It is more appropriately called Ocular Herpes or Herpes Keratitis. It is a common infection and it is estimated that about 400 to 500 thousand individuals get infected in the U.S.A. alone annually.  There are two kinds of herpes simplex viruses.

Eye herpes 1Types

It can be divided into:

Type I Herpes – most common type. It mainly infects the face/lips and results in the “cold sore” formation.

Type II Herpes – less common. This is the sexually transmitted variety. The primary infection is in the genitals.

The eye can be infected by both types of herpes. However, most of the time it is the Type I variety that infects the eye. The Type I variety of herpes is very contagious. It can be by skin contact with someone who has the virus. It is estimated that almost 90% of the population would have suffered from the Type I variety during childhood.

How the Eye Gets Infected

The eye gets infected most commonly when an infected person touches an active sore or blister, after which he or she touches their eyes. It may be transmitted by the infected person into his or her own eye or from one person to another.

Symptoms

A patient who gets infected will complain of a painful sore over the eyelid or a painful red eye with blurring in some instances especially if it infects the clear transparent part of the eye called the cornea. A person may also start to have a watery eye or have some excessive mucus secretions. In severe cases, it may also infect the inside of the eyeball although this is not as common as the former. There may be a hypersensitivity to light too.

Triggers or a Herpes Simplex Eye Infection

After the first infection, the virus remains dormant or inactive for months or even years until such time there may be an exposure to some trigger factor such as the following:

  • a prolonged illness or an injury
  • steroid consumption for another illness
  • usage of steroid eye drops (without supervision)
  • a high fever (unrelated to the eye)
  • prolonged exposure to cold winds
  • stress
  • menstruation in some women
  • a weak immune system
  • those receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy for a malignancy.

Eye herpes 2How is It Diagnosed

The eye doctor will often instil temporary stain into the affected eye (with fluorescein dye) to detect the eye infection. The infected portion gets stained and is able to be picked up when special blue cobalt light is shone into the affected eye. (See adjacent pic)

How Serious is This?    

If the eye infection is detected early and the virus has infected the cornea (clear transparent area) superficially only, it often heals well with no problems. However, if the cornea is involved more deeply, the infection may lead to scarring of the cornea, loss of vision and sometimes even blindness. So if you have any eye infection that you are unsure of, or it is prolonged, do seek professional eye treatment.

For more information, call Gill Eye Specialist Centre at Hospital Fatimah (05-5455582) or email gilleyecentre@dr.com.