Herpes is common viruses that infect the eyes like a sty, keratitis, pink eye, and Cellulitis. Herpes is also responsible for cold sores and genital Herpes, and if untreated, the virus can cause serious damage to your eye, leaving you visually impaired.
Once you get infected by the herpes virus, you live with it permanently and can, once in a while, become active, causing your eyes to ache, turn red, and sore. When you get these symptoms, seek medical advice.
What Causes Herpes?
Herpes is brought by the herpes virus, which enters our body through skin contact with an infected person. Once the virus gets into your body, it lives with you rest of your life in an inactive state and only presents itself when the conditions are right.
A kiss on the lip can transfer the virus into you if the person is infected and other skin contact situations like sex and vigorous games like wrestling and rugby, which involve a lot of skin contact with the players.
When Herpes relapses, the virus moves into the eye, which can be triggered by any of the following:
- Weak immune system
- Injury in the eye
- Periods in women
- Prolonged stress
- Extreme weather conditions
How does the Herpes virus affect my eyes?
Herpes virus affects your eye mainly in two ways:
Keratitis affects your eye’s transparent part, which is the superficial part of your eye’s cornea. The virus is known as stromal keratitis, which presents high risks of eye complications.
The virus may also infect your eyelids (blepharitis), your eyelid lining (conjunctivitis) and can infect the retina.
Who is more at risk of contracting Herpes?
Women are at higher risk of contracting genital Herpes, and its spread to men from women is easy. Teenagers and youth who are sexually active can easily contract Herpes. The virus from the genitals can easily spread to the eye and cause serious infections.
The prevalence rate of the virus is less in children under ten years and increases as age advances leaving the older generation at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
Active sportspeople are likely to contract Herpes compared to spectators, and if you live in crowded places where chances of skin contact are high, the chances of getting infected are high.
How will I know if I have Herpes of the eye?
When your eyes become infected with the herpes virus, the initial symptoms will be fever and swelling of the glands that resemble blisters, which might not be painful in some instances.
Your eye will turn red and painful, and could start shedding tears. The symptoms advance to headaches, sore eyelids, and begin avoiding light because you feel like you have dust in your eye.
If untreated promptly, your vision begins to dwindle and could lead to blindness or reduced vision.
When you visit your doctor, he will ask detailed questions on your symptoms and some history of the same symptoms in the past; then he will do tests to check your vision’s strength, how sensitive you are to light, and movements of your eyes.
Your doctor will perform further tests by dilating your eye to see if the retina is infected and put some dark orange color (fluorescein) in your eye to check for any cornea complications.
In the final tests, your doctor will likely take sample cells from your eye to test for HSV. You have to get a blood test to check if you had been pre-exposed to Herpes.
What treatment for Herpes will I get?
If your infection is mild, you might not need any treatment, but you are cautioned not to squeeze or scratch your eyes to avoid spreading the virus further or infecting other people.
When the infection gets severe, your doctor shall prescribe antiviral treatment or eye drops and ointments.