Shingles and the eye

By Brett Abney - Abney & Amstutz Eye Centers

It is not uncommon for people to come to the office with complaints of pain in or around the eye. One of the causes for this pain is the shingles virus. Patients are sometimes surprised when we talk about this being the cause since they don’t associate the shingles virus with the eye. They are even more surprised when we tell them that this virus is in the herpetic family of diseases, but there is no association with other sexually-transmitted forms of herpetic disease.

Anyone who has had chicken pox has the risk of developing shingles. After having chicken pox, the virus lies dormant in structures called ganglia, and can activate when the immune system weakens. The immune system can weaken with stress, illness or other chronic diseases causing the patient to be immune-compromised.

Most of the time, there are small reddish spots on the eyelid that are painful to touch. They usually occur on the upper eyelid and skin on the forehead. They are confined to one side of the face.

The treatment for shingles around the eye is the same as other parts of the body. In most cases, an anti-viral medication is prescribed and taken by mouth for approximately 10 days. It is critically important to ensure that the virus doesn’t affect the eyeball, since scarring can lead to visual problems. Your eye doctor can easily detect these changes and treatment can greatly reduce any long-term problems with vision. It is important for your eye doctor to discuss these findings with your medical doctor, so proper treatment can be started safely and followed closely until the virus is controlled.

By Brett Abney

Abney & Amstutz Eye Centers

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