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Shingles and the EyeWhat is shingles?

Shingles is a viral infection caused by the herpes zoster virus.  It often causes a painful rash that results in blisters that eventually scab over.  The herpes zoster virus is also responsible for chicken pox.

Is shingles contagious?

It can be contagious but can only be passed to others who have not had chicken pox.  A patient that has been newly infected with the herpes zoster virus will then develop chicken pox, not shingles.  Patients who have shingles should avoid being around those who may be more easily infected, including pregnant women, small children, and those who have weakened immune systems.

How does shingles affect the eye?

Shingles doesn’t always affect the eye but when it does the medical term is “Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus,” or “HZO.”  HZO causes a skin rash and discomfort on one side of the forehead and scalp and usually does not cross the midline of the body.  Shingles may involve the eyelid or skin around the eye.  It can also affect the eyeball itself.

What are the symptoms of HZO?

Symptoms may include redness, eye pain, blurred vision, burning, tearing, eyelid swelling, and sensitivity to light along with the painful skin rash.  Some patients feel a tingling sensation before the rash appears.

How is it treated?

Shingles is treated with oral antiviral medication.  Cool, moist compresses are typically recommended over the eyes for eyelid swelling.  Antiviral eye drops or gel, dilating eye drops, antibiotic ointment, steroid eye drops, or artificial tears may be prescribed depending on which part of the eye is affected.  Rarely, in severe cases of corneal scarring, a corneal transplant is needed.

Can HZO it be prevented?

There is a shingles vaccine that is recommended for people 50 years and older.  Talk to your medical doctor to see if this vaccine is right for you.

What do I do If I suspect I have shingles around my eye?

If you have pain on one side of your face or scalp, or blistering in those regions, it is important to seek the care of an eye doctor.  HZO is most successfully treated when it is identified early.

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Vista Eye Care

13695 Colorado Blvd. Thornton, CO 80602
Phone: (303) 450-2020
Fax: (303) 920-1440

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