Herpes simplex corneae, herpes simplex keratitis, herpetic keratitisThe herpes on the eye is called herpes corneae in the technical language. This is usually understood to be an infection of the eye with the herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2. The herpes simplex virus in general migrates retrogradely (regressing) after first contact along the nerve to an accumulation of nerve cell bodies (ganglion) in the head.
From there, it can travel via a nerve fibre to the lips and also to the eyes, where it can cause an acute inflammation. In most cases, the virus reaches the eye by germ transfer (autoinoculation) from an already infected area, as is often the case with lips, to a unified area. The herpes simplex virus often only attacks one eye.
It usually spreads from the cornea or eyelids. Infection with the virus initially manifests itself with itching and burning of the infected corner of the eye. People who suffer more often from herpes infection often notice that a new infection is on the horizon.
Already after a few hours or at the latest the next day, reddening of the skin occurs, which can also be irritated. Next, blisters form quickly, which are very similar to those on the lips and can be of different sizes. The inflammation can now take different courses.
In mild cases, the inflammation is limited to the outer eyelid or the corner of the eye. With regular care, these heal faster and are less severe. In other cases, the herpes viruses can also attack deeper layers of the eye.
For example, if the cornea is affected, a more serious corneal inflammation can develop quickly. The eye then becomes very irritated and the sclerae, the visible white of the eyes, become red and smaller vessels develop more. The irritation causes the eye to water more frequently, thus protecting it from drying out and attempting to flush out foreign bodies, bacteria and viruses.
In addition, the patient also feels the unpleasant feeling of having a foreign body in the eye. If the inflammation of the cornea progresses further due to unsuccessful treatment or therapy not initiated in time, the cornea can be severely damaged and have serious consequences. Symptoms such as a clouding of the cornea and the resulting reduction in vision may occur.
The clouding of the cornea as well as the irritation of the cornea are often irreparable damages that require treatment by a specialist. The cornea loses its protective function due to the formation of scar tissue. In such extreme cases there is the danger of blindness!
In addition, the eye can swell slightly and also be painful. Typical for a herpes infection is the sticking together of the eyelashes and eyelids during sleep, so that in the morning it is difficult to open the eyes without discomfort or isolated lashes stick together strongly. In a severe herpes infection, the viruses can penetrate into deeper layers of the eye.
If they reach the choroid, the layers between the inner retina and the outer dermis, the viruses are very close to the cells that are important for vision. Further progression of the infection carries risks such as impaired vision or even loss of vision. Unpleasant pain occurs, which is also caused by an increase in intraocular pressure.
Often patients describe this symptom as a deep-seated pain behind the eye. The increase in intraocular pressure is referred to as glaucoma. From the choroid, the viruses can also easily reach the optic nerve, which approaches the eye from behind, and also infect it.
Patients notice not only slight to severe pain but also a deterioration in vision. The signs of a viral infection with the herpes simplex virus should not be ignored. The symptoms are often quite clear and require rapid treatment with appropriate antivirals after consultation with an ophthalmologist. Last but not least, there is the risk that irreversible damage to the eye remains due to the recurrent (reoccurring) inflammation and the patient often suffers from the symptoms.