What are the Symptoms of a Herpes Eye Infection?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2020
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Ocular herpes is a viral eye infection that can lead to inflammation and even scarring if not properly treated. It is caused by the type 1 herpes simplex virus, and is usually spread by having close contact with someone else who has this condition. Some of the most common characteristics deal with irritation of the cornea, including inflammation, pain, and blurry vision, though a sore is also often visible on the eye. Other symptoms are usually similar to those of the typical eye infection, such as swelling, photosensitivity, excessive tearing, redness, and the feeling that there is something in the eye. A herpes eye infection can often be recurrent, and can usually be treated using antivirus eye drops or pills.

One of the most noticeable symptoms of a herpes eye infection is pain on the surface of the eye, or cornea. This is because it is usually inflamed, which typically also results in redness of the eye along with discomfort. The cornea also often becomes cloudy so that the vision is blurred, further complicated by a small sore on the surface of the eye.


Unfortunately, most other symptoms of a herpes eye infection are very similar to other types of infections in the eye, causing this condition to be overlooked often. For example, redness and swelling of the eye is common, along with excessive tearing, particularly when looking at light. In fact, it may be difficult to even keep the eye open without tears coming down the face. The feeling that there is debris in the eye may also result, usually due to the presence of at least one sore on the cornea.

Most cases of herpes eye infection require a trip to the eye doctor, as this issue is usually recurrent, and can cause corneal scarring if not taken care of. The doctor may prescribe antiviral eye drops, though pills may also be taken orally to get rid of the virus. This treatment is usually only possible if the herpes eye infection is superficial, or only on the surface of the eye. If it goes deeper, steroid drops can typically be used to reduce inflammation and decrease the chances of scarring of the cornea. Since this type of drop tends to temporarily weaken the immune system, an antibiotic drop can also be prescribed so that a secondary bacterial infection does not develop during treatment.



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