Herpes keratitis is a viral infection of the eye caused by the Herpes simplex virus, best known for causing cold sores. Most humans acquire this virus during childhood through casual contact, and the virus lies dormant in the body throughout life. For some reason it reactivates later on and travels down a nerve, infecting the tissue that nerve inervates. Herpes keratitis usually affects only one eye and most often occurs on the cornea – the clear dome of the front of the eye. After the first attack, there is a 50% chance of getting repeat infections.
The symptoms of Herpes keratitis may include:
- moderate pain
- blurred vision
- sensitivity to light
If the infection is superficial, with ulcers involving only the cornea’s top layer, called the epithelium, it will usually heal without scarring. However, with repeated episodes or if the inflammation involves the deeper layers of the cornea, it may lead to scarring of the cornea, loss of vision, and sometimes even blindness. Left untreated, herpes keratitis can severely damage your eye.
Herpes keratitis is usually treated with antiviral medications, either in eye drop or pill form. Depending on the progression of the infection, your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) may also treat your condition with steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation. Rarely, when the cornea is severely damaged, a corneal transplant may be necessary to improve vision.