Five Things You Need To Know About Herpes Zoster

Herpes zoster is in the same family of viruses that causes shingles and the chicken pox. However, when it manifests in the eye, it creates a number of distinct symptoms. Read on to learn about the virus and the eye disease treatment you can do for it.

1. Many Adults Harbor the Virus without Ever Experiencing Symptoms

The herpes zoster virus lives in the bodies of many healthy adults without ever causing any issues. Usually, a change to the immune system is what causes the virus to eventually rear its ugly head. Stress and illnesses are two common factors that cause the immune system to function differently and set the herpes zoster virus off.

2. The Symptoms of Herpes Zoster Can Interfere with Your Quality of Life

Herpes zoster manifests a set of distinct symptoms that permit ophthalmologists to identify it. Symptoms normally only affect one eye. Some of the most common signs of herpes zoster include:

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Eye redness
  • Cloudy cornea
  • Swelling
  • Rash that extends to the nose and across the upper portion of the face

It is possible to confuse herpes zoster with another eye disease known as herpes simplex, as they have many of the same symptoms. 

3. Treatment of Herpes Zoster Can Be Tricky

Since herpes zoster is a virus, properly treating it can be difficult. Two of the most common treatment options include antiviral medications and corticosteroid eye drops. Corticosteroid eye drops are frequently used in severe outbreaks that affect the cornea. Some patients complain of dry eye; your doctor can prescribe drops that promote watering of the eye to alleviate this complaint.

While you are taking your medications, it is important for your doctor to monitor your condition. Corticosteroid eye drops come with a few risks, as the drops raise the pressure of the eye. Your doctor has to monitor the pressure to make sure your dosage does not need to be reduced.

4. You May Experience Multiple Outbreaks of Herpes Zoster

Once you get your herpes zoster under control and your symptoms subside, you may believe that you are in the clear. Unfortunately, it is likely that you'll experience another outbreak at some point in the future. The virus does not leave your body; instead, it lies dormant.

When an event occurs that compromises your immune system, like excessive stress or another illness, that can activate the virus again.

5. Vaccinating Can Help

The chances of suffering from herpes zoster is lower in individuals who have had the chicken pox vaccine. If you do suffer an outbreak, you can expect your symptoms to be less severe than if you had not gotten the vaccine.