Herpes Viral Infections of the Eye

  • Medical Author:
    Patricia S. Bainter, MD

    Dr. Bainter is a board-certified ophthalmologist. She received her BA from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and her MD from the University of Colorado in Denver, CO. She completed an internal medicine internship at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, CO, followed by an ophthalmology residency and a cornea and external disease fellowship, both at the University of Colorado. She became board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology in 1998 and recertified in 2008. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Bainter practices general ophthalmology including cataract surgery and management of corneal and anterior segment diseases. She has volunteered in eye clinics in the Dominican Republic and Bosnia. She currently practices at One to One Eye Care in San Diego, CA.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View the Eye Diseases and Conditions Slideshow Pictures

Herpes of the Eye Symptoms: Eye Pain

The eye is the organ of sight. Eye pain can be cause by conditions involving the eyeball (orbit) or be caused by conditions of structures around the eye.

The eye has a number of components. These components include but are not limited to the:

  • cornea,
  • iris,
  • pupil,
  • lens,
  • retina,
  • macula,
  • optic nerve,
  • choroid and
  • vitreous.

What are herpes viruses?

There are several members of the herpes virus family. They include herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), herpes zoster (HZV, also known as varicella-zoster virus or VZV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and others.

Which types of herpes viruses can affect the eyes?

Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) is the most common herpes virus to affect the eyes. This is the same virus that causes cold sores on the lips. Herpes zoster virus, which causes chickenpox in childhood and shingles in adulthood, can also affect the eye. Cytomegalovirus causes eye disease in immunocompromised people, such as HIV-infected patients with low T cell counts.

What parts of the eyes are susceptible to herpes viruses?

All the parts of the eye are susceptible to infection. When any part of the eye is affected, it is referred to as herpes ophthalmicus.

The cornea is most often affected by HSV and HZV. Infection or inflammation of the cornea is known as keratitis. But these viruses can also affect the skin of the eyelids, the uveal tissue (iris and choroid), and the retina. For this reason, a thorough eye exam is recommended to assess the extent of eye involvement.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/8/2016

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