Ocular Herpes: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    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.

Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2017

Ocular herpes, or herpes infection of the eye, occurs when a herpes virus infection involves the eye. Within the eye, the cornea is the part of the eye most often affected by herpes, leading to inflammation of the cornea (keratitis). The virus can also affect the retina, iris, choroid, and eyelids. Pain, redness, blurred vision, excess tear production, and light sensitivity are the main symptoms of ocular herpes. The infection may be accompanies by the characteristic rash of shingles on the eyelids or forehead.

Causes of ocular herpes (eye herpes)

Ocular herpes occurs when a herpes virus infection spreads to involve the eye. Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) is the most common herpes virus to affect the eyes. This virus causes cold sores on the lips. Other members of the herpesviruses that can infect the eyes include varicella-zoster virus (VZV; herpes zoster), which causes chickenpox in childhood and shingles in adulthood, and cytomegalovirus, which can cause eye disease in people with decreased immune function, such as HIV-infected patients.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/6/2017

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