Herpes can affect eyes and progress to corneal lesions

Herpes can affect eyes and progress to corneal lesions

Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) is a very common virus that infects the majority of the population. The infection is characterized by the appearance of painful blisters that usually develop on the lips and oral cavity.

Herpes lesions can affect other areas of the face, such as the eyes and eyelids. Another characteristic of herpes simplex type 1 is that several episodes of the infection can occur over a lifetime.

According to ophthalmologist Dr. Maria Beatriz Guerios, herpes simplex infection occurs in childhood. However, in most cases it is an asymptomatic and self-limiting infection. The virus lodges in the sensory ganglia of the trigeminal nerve and lies dormant. “The activation of the virus is mediated by several factors such as stress, low immunity, sun exposure, trauma and fever”.

When this occurs, the virus migrates through the nerves until it reaches the tissues. Although the area most affected by the infection is the region of the lips, the disease can spread and affect the eyelids and eyeball, which is a more worrisome condition.

“That’s because the lesions can evolve and invade the cornea leading to a picture of herpetic keratitis. It is a condition that requires treatment to prevent damage to vision, “says the specialist.

It is worth remembering that there are two types of herpes simplex: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Type 1 is linked to lesions in the face region and type 2 is a variation related to sexual transmission whose lesions are located on Organs genitals.


When herpes simplex affects the eyeball, it causes other signs and symptoms in addition to the characteristic lesions of the infection.

“The manifestations of herpes simplex in the eyes resemble those of conjunctivitis. However, in most cases only one eye is affected. This is an essential characteristic to differentiate the two diseases and treat them appropriately”, explains Dr. Maria Beatriz.

Among the manifestations of ocular herpes simplex are:

  • Foreign body sensation, sand in the eyes
  • Headache
  • light sensitivity
  • Redness
  • tearing
  • Itch
  • Irritation

In the eyelids, the symptoms are similar to those that arise when the lesion breaks out on the lips. Usually the person starts to feel itching which is followed by the outbreak of blisters that turn into sores.

Herpetic keratitis is a potentially serious eye condition. Therefore, in the presence of symptoms, it is necessary to seek an ophthalmologist urgently. Another aspect that draws attention in ocular herpes is its recurrence rate, which can reach 50% in five years.

Is herpes transmitted in kissing?

Surely you’ve read the news about newborns who contracted the herpes virus after being kissed or handled in the first few days of life.

“Herpes simplex is highly contagious, especially at the stage when the blisters break and release secretions. Therefore, kissing or contact with a newborn without washing your hands is something you should not do if the person has an ongoing infection”, warns Dr. Maria Beatriz.

Neonatal herpes is extremely serious because the newborn has no defenses in their immune system. Injuries can cause several serious problems and evolve and lead the baby to death.

In addition, the specialist adds that there are other diseases that can be transmitted to newborn babies. “Therefore, with or without herpes, babies should not be kissed and all handling should be done with maximum hand hygiene.”

How is the treatment for eye herpes?

Treatment of herpes simplex can be done with topical or oral antivirals. Patients who experience recurrence of ocular herpes may be indicated for prophylactic therapy with antivirals to prevent further attacks.

Prevention involves hand hygiene, avoiding contact with infected people, never sharing personal items, such as makeup items, for example, managing stress and maintaining good immunity through a healthy lifestyle.

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