Definition of Ocular Herpes Zoster

Ocular Herpes Zoster – infection of the eyes with the varicella zoster virus, a member of the herpes simplex family of viruses that causes chickenpox and shingles. After the infectious stage of chickenpox subsides, the virus submerges itself in nerve roots. It may reemerge years to decades later, erupting in a rash of painful blisters along a nerve tract that hosts the virus.

Ocular herpes zoster occurs when an outbreak that affects the face, usually along the tract of the trigeminal nerve, spreads to the eye. Usually the outbreak affects only the eye on the same side of the face as the shingles eruption, though sometimes the shingles eruption affects both sides of the face.

When this is the case, ocular herpes zoster can affect both eyes as well. As in other locations, the shingles blisters in the eye cause intense pain.

The blisters and pain are characteristic of ocular herpes zoster, making it possible for the doctor to make the diagnosis based on their presentation.

Treatment typically includes antiviral medications (such as acyclovir), ophthalmic corticosteroid medications to reduce inflammation, tricyclic antidepressant medications to prevent postherpetic neuralgia, and analgesic medications to relieve pain.

Symptoms may take several weeks to several months to resolve. Numerous complications are possible that can have long-term consequences for vision, including glaucoma and cataract.

Ocular herpes zoster very seldom recurs, though this is a risk for those who are immunocompromised such as with hiv/aids or receiving immunosuppressive therapy such as following organ transplantation.


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