What is Herpes Simplex Keratitis (Eye Herpes)?
Herpes simplex keratitis is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the most common virus found in humans. Approximately 90% of the population 15 years of age and older have been exposed to the herpes simplex virus. Primary infections occur most often in children between 6 months and 5 years of age. The herpes simplex virus commonly results in a fever blister or cold sore in or around the mouth. After the symptom resolves (goes away), the virus remains dormant in the body.
What causes Herpes Simplex Keratitis?
- transmission of the virus
- immunosuppressive medications
- immune system deficiencies
- exposure to ultraviolet rays
The herpes simplex virus is contagious and can be transmitted by skin contact with others or from one part of the body to another. For instance, if an individual touches a cold sore or fever blister and then rubs or touches their eye, the eye can become infected and Herpes Simplex Keratitis will result.
Symptoms of Herpes Simplex Keratitis:
- pain, ranging from mild to severe
- light sensitivity
- blurry vision
- tearing or discharge from the eye(s)
- foreign body sensation (feels like something is in the eye)
- gritty, scratchy sensation
- eyes may appear red
The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. The more frequently the episodes of Herpes Simplex Keratitis occur, the more likely there will be increased damage to the cornea. Damage to the cornea can be the formation of corneal ulcers, permanent scarring, loss of feeling in the eye, or encroachment of blood vessels onto the cornea. All of which can lead to permanent vision loss or permanent vision impairment.
Treatment of Herpes Simplex Keratitis:
- topical antiviral eye drops
- oral antiviral medication
Unfortunately, as Herpes Simplex Keratitis progresses, the virus attacks the nerves of the cornea and pain is no longer felt. When this happens most people believe that the condition is getting better. However, the virus is progressing and destroying (eroding) the corneal surface.