Ocular herpes is a recurrent viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. In fact, it is the most common infectious cause of corneal blindness in the country. Studies show that once patients develop ocular herpes, they have up to a 50 percent chance of having a recurrence. This second flare-up could come weeks or even years after the initial occurrence.
Warning Signs & Symptoms
Ocular herpes can produce a painful sore on the eyelid or eye surface, causing inflammation of the cornea. Other symptoms include swelling, tearing, irritation, recurrent infections, discharge, redness, soreness and light sensitivity.
Prompt treatment with anti-viral drugs helps to stop the herpes virus from multiplying. However, the infection may spread deeper into the cornea and develop into a more severe infection called stromal keratitis, which causes the body’s immune system to attack and destroy stromal, or connective tissue, cells. Stromal keratitis is more difficult to treat than less severe ocular herpes infections. Recurrent episodes of stromal keratitis can cause scarring of the cornea, which can lead to loss of vision and possibly blindness. In this case, a corneal transplant may be required.
Ocular herpes is transmitted through contact with someone who is having an outbreak, such as a cold sore. Once the initial outbreak occurs, ocular herpes has about a 50 percent chance of recurring. Outbreaks are caused by stress-related factors such as fever, sunburn, major dental or surgical procedures, and trauma.
If a corneal transplant is required, the patient must wear an eye patch for a certain period of time, which protects the new cornea from injury. Eye drops are required to prevent rejection of the transplant, and full vision recovery may take up to a year.