What Causes Shingles In The Eye? Symptoms & Treatment Options

Shingles is caused by a type of herpes virus, called the varicella zoster (VZ virus). After you have had chickenpox, the virus is known to stay latent in your nervous system for several years before getting reactivated as shingles.

The varicella zoster virus causes shingles in the eye. Once you have had chickenpox, the VZ virus remains dormant in your body and then it re-emerges several years later as shingles.

25 % of the shingles eruptions occur in or around the eye, causing herpes zoster ophthalmicus.

Shingles in the eye can cause immense scarring, loss of vision, and other long term complications. You can avoid developing shingles in the eye by getting vaccinated for it if you are over the age of 50 years.

Signs And Symptoms Of Shingles In The Eye

  • In most cases, eye shingles will commence as flu like symptoms – fever, chills, body pains, headaches, lethargy and exhaustion.
  • Then there will be pain in one eye or one side of the head. The pain is burning or tingling at first, followed by excruciating pain.
  • A red rash will develop on one side of the head, scalp and eyelid. It is a bunch of blisters, that secrete clear fluid, and then the crust develops.
  • There will be intense pain in the affected eye, blurring of the vision, watering of the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, inflammation and redness. Inflammation can also develop in the interior surface of the eye, the retina. This can result in vision loss.
  • The eyelid, cornea and retina will get inflamed and swollen.
  • In case of these symptoms, it is very vital that you call your health care provider or an ophthalmologist for an appointment, without any delay. The more prompt the treatment, the less likely it is that you will develop long term complications.

Treatment Options For Shingles In The Eye

It is very important to consult your ophthalmologist without any delay if you have symptoms of eye shingles. Oral and topical medications help treat the symptoms well. Treatment is most successful if it is started within 48 – 72 hours of developing the rash. If neglected, those with eye shingles can develop scarring in the eye which will consequently result in loss of vision.

  • Doctors manage shingles with anti-viral medicines, such as – acyclovir, valacyclovir and famcicyclovir. These drugs help to prevent the virus from spreading, they make sure that the blisters heal rapidly, they allay the excruciating pain and discomfort, and they help the rash fade more quickly.
  • Beginning medication within three days after the rash manifests helps circumvent the shingles complications.
  • To reduce the swelling, inflammation and pain in and around your eye, your physician may prescribe a steroidal drug in the form of tablet or eye drops. In case you develop post herpetic neuralgia, analgesics and anti-depressants will be given to assuage the nerve pain.
  • The rash heals in 1 to 3 weeks. In the initial stage of the infection, your ophthalmologist will call you daily. After the treatment regimen for the infection has been completed, you need to visit the doctor every 3 to 12 months to test for scarring, glaucoma and other long-term disorders which can affect vision.