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Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Eye Infections


 What is a herpes zoster eye infection?
 What is the cause?
 What are the symptoms?
 How is it diagnosed?
 How is it treated?
 How can I take care of myself?
 What can I do to help prevent herpes zoster eye infections?

What is a herpes zoster eye infection?

Herpes zoster is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Herpes zoster is also called shingles. You cannot have shingles unless you already had chickenpox.

Shingles causes painful blisters near nerves on one side of your body. It may spread to your face and eyes. The virus can cause severe damage to your eyes. Early diagnosis and treatment can help greatly in reducing serious complications from herpes zoster eye infections.

What is the cause?

If you have had chickenpox, you are at risk for later developing shingles. After you recover from chickenpox, the chickenpox virus stays in your body. The virus can become active again if your body's immune system is weakened by:

Your risk for getting shingles may be higher if you have recently:

A person with shingles can transmit chickenpox to a person who has never been exposed to the chickenpox virus. The virus is spread by contact with the blisters. The blisters are no longer contagious after they dry up and form scabs.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of herpes zoster eye infections usually come in three phases:

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and symptoms and examine your skin and eyes. Fluid from the blisters may be sent to a lab to check for the virus. A dye may be put on the surface of your eye to make it easier to see if there is damage to your eye from the infection.

How is it treated?

Several medicines are helpful in treating herpes zoster eye infections. Your healthcare provider may:

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What can I do to help prevent herpes zoster eye infections?

Most children now get shots to prevent infection with the chickenpox virus. If you have never had chickenpox, you can get a shot to help prevent infection with the virus. A shingles vaccine is available for people 50 years of age and older. It is recommended for people 60 years of age and older. The vaccine can help prevent or lessen the symptoms of shingles. It cannot be used to treat shingles once you have it.

If you have not been vaccinated and have never had chickenpox, try to avoid contact with people who may have an active chickenpox infection. If you are pregnant, you should not be around someone with chickenpox or shingles.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer/

healthinformatics info

Reference Sources:

American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2012-2013 Basic and Clinical Science Course. San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2012; v.1-13.

Miller NR, Newman NJ, Biousse V and Kerrison JB, eds. Walsh and Hoyt’s Clinical Neuro-Ophthalmology, 6th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2004;v.1-3.

Yanoff M and Duker JS. Ophthalmology, 3rd edition. Philadelphia: Mosby, 2008.


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Last Modified: 2012-12-31

Last Reviewed: 2012-12-31

Website Updated: March 2014

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Published by RelayHealth. © 2014 RelayHealth and/or one of its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


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