Ocular Herpes: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

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.

Other ocular herpes symptoms and signs

  • Blurred Vision
  • Drooping Eyelids
  • Excess Tear Production
  • Eye Irritation
  • Eye Pain
  • Eye Redness
  • Eye Sores
  • Gritty or Foreign Body Sensation in the Eye
  • Headache
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Rash
  • Reddened Eyelids
  • Skin Blisters on Eyelids or Forehead
  • Swollen Eyelids
  • Vision Disturbances
  • Watery Discharge From the Eye


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