One’s first encounter with the Herpes zoster virus is usually childhood chicken pox. Later in life, the virus may reactivate, causing a characteristic rash of small blisters, frequently on the chest or forehead, which form crusts and may leave scars. This second encounter with the virus is commonly known as shingles.
Unlike chicken pox, shingles is usually quite painful. Although this disease often occurs in normal, healthy people, it occurs more frequently in elderly or immune-compromised individuals.
It is important to see an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) or optometrist when Herpes zoster occurs on the face, especially on the forehead, because the virus can invade the eye. An ophthalmologist looks for elevated pressure in the eye, inflammation inside the eye, and herpes zoster lesions on the surface of the eye. All of these problems can be treated, and it is important to treat them to prevent vision loss or glaucoma. Careful follow-up is required. Today, new oral antiviral medications decrease the risk of eye involvement and are providing shingles patients with a quicker, more complete recovery.