Can shingles or herpes zoster effect the eyes? - Dr. Robert Benza

by Dr. Robert Benza, MD 16. June 2014 06:00

dr. robert benza

We see many patients each year who will break out in a rash on one side of their face.  This often is herpes zoster or shingles.  Most patients realize they can get shingles on the trunk of their body but not on their face.  When we were young, most of us had the chicken pox which is the same virus causing shingles as an adult.  The chicken pox resolves but the virus stays in our system long term.

It typically follows the pattern of nerves and stays in our nervous system.   Whether it be from stress, a decreased immune system or bad luck,  the virus can travel down a nerve and appear even on the face.   These same nerves innervate the eye as the face and the virus can involve ANY layer of the eye.   Over the years,  this virus has caused blindness in many patients. Fortunately,  the oral antiviral medications have been terrific in treating this condition in order to save vision for patients.
If you or your primary care physician suspect herpes zoster on the face,  consult your eye care physician.   Even if the eye does not appear to be involved,  we have seen cases where a significant inflammation occurs a few months after the rash has disappeared.   Early detection is the key. 
Remember,  protect those eyes!!


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