One of the viruses that cause herpetic eye disease is the varicella-zoster strain. This is the same virus that causes chicken pox in the young, and shingles in older individuals. This is not the virus that causes genital herpes; shingles is not a sexually transmitted disease. The varicella-zoster virus lies dormant (inactive) in the nervous system of most adults from a previous exposure as a child. Sometimes the virus will multiply or move from one place to another in the body, and an infection outbreak will occur. If the person’s immune system is weakened by other illness, an outbreak can also occur. If the eye is involved, it is termed herpes zoster opthalmicus.
Symptoms of this eye condition include painful rash on the affected side of the face, eye pain, blurred vision due to swelling of the cornea, and eyelid swelling. The hallmark of the shingles virus is that it always only affects one side of the body, since it arises from the nerve bundles on that side. Prompt diagnosis and treatment with anti-viral prescription medications give the best prognosis for visual recovery.
Dr. Carney is available for all your eye care needs by appointment at Wallace Eye Associates by calling (318) 448-0221.