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What You Need To Know About Shingles in the Eye: Symptoms and Treatments

Updated 12/08/22

If you’ve ever had shingles, you know they’re no picnic. But did you know that shingles can also affect your eyes? It's true; your eyes can get the shingles rash, and it’s no fun. However, there are ways to manage the symptoms and ease the discomfort of shingles of the eye.

Continue reading to learn more about eye shingles, including the symptoms as well as possible treatment options.

Often referred to as shingles, herpes zoster is a disease of the skin caused by the varicella zoster virus – which is also the virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox as a child and recovered, your body has created immunity against it. This makes it extremely unlikely to get chickenpox a subsequent time, as opposed to someone who has never had chickenpox.

As a result of a strong immune system, the virus will not be active anymore. However, the inactive virus has not been eliminated completely. It will still be present in your body for the rest of your life.

If your immune system weakens or becomes compromised at some point later in life, the virus may reactivate. Herpes zoster occurs when this viral reactivation happens.

Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus

When the herpes zoster virus affects the eyes, it is called herpes zoster ophthalmicus. It occurs when the virus reactivates and causes a painful skin rash in the area around your eye and eyelid. Usually, the rash develops on one side of your face, will cause swelling, and is accompanied by severe pain. In addition to that, it can cause serious eye complications including glaucoma and can even lead to vision loss or total blindness.

Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus often appears on only one side of the face

Most people who develop herpes zoster ophthalmicus will have a rash that starts as small, red bumps that turn into blisters. The blisters will eventually burst and form scabs. The scabs will eventually fall off, leaving scars.

What Causes Shingles of the Eye?

As mentioned earlier, the shingles virus is the same one that causes chickenpox. It lies dormant in your body after you’ve had chickenpox, but it can reactivate years later and cause shingles. Shingles typically consist of a painful rash with blisters that can occur anywhere on your body, but it most often appears as a band of blisters wrapping around one side of your torso. In some cases, the rash occurs around one eye or on your forehead. The risk of getting herpes zoster ophthalmicus is lower that the risk of getting shingles, but it’s more serious because damage to the eye can cause permanent vision loss.

Symptoms of Shingles in the Eye

If you have shingles that affect the eye, you may feel like you have something in the front of the eye or back of the eye. You might also have pain, a rash, or swollen lymph nodes near your ear. 

The painful rash that the shingles virus causes can occur anywhere on your body; but is most commonly found on one side of the body. This extends to pain and tingling on one side of the face, around the eye itself, and skin of the eyelid.

The symptoms associated with shingles infection on or by parts of the eye are similar to those of other types of shingles. They include:

-Blisters on one side of the body, often around the eye 
Shingles, blisters around the eye

-Painful rash and redness

-Fever

-Headache

-Body aches

Don’t delay seeking medical attention if you experience these symptoms, as shingles can cause serious complications if not treated right away. Treatment for shingles in the eye typically includes antiviral medication and pain relief, though in certain cases surgery may be required to preserve vision. It's important to see an ophthalmologist or primary care doctor if you suspect your eye conditions are caused by shingles symptoms. This is especially true for people with weakened immune systems.

What Are the Risk Factors of Herpes Zoster virus in the eye?

Varicella zoster virus can also cause a serious complication called postherpetic neuralgia. This is a condition where the virus damages the nerves, causing severe pain that can last for months or even years.

Shingles around the eye are caused by a variety of factors that can increase your likelihood of developing the disease. These include:

 

-Weakened immune system: 

Getting shingles is more likely if you have a weakened immune system. Weakened immunity can be caused by conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or taking certain medications such as steroids.

-Age: 

A person’s chances of contracting shingles increase as they age. This is because the varicella zoster virus stays dormant in your nerve cells as you age, and your immune system becomes less able to fight off the virus. Shingles is most common in people over the age of 50.

-Family history: 

If you have a family member who has had shingles, you are more likely to develop the condition yourself.

-Previous exposure to chickenpox: 

If you have previously been exposed to chickenpox, you are more likely to develop shingles later in life. This is because the varicella zoster virus lies dormant in your body after you have had chickenpox and can reactivate later on.

What is the treatment for Shingles in the Eye?

There is no cure for shingles, but there are treatments that can help ease the symptoms and make the rash go away faster. The sooner that a doctor can diagnose shingles, the faster they can treat shingles.

For immediate relief from the itching caused by shingles, Dermeleve is an excellent option. A single application of Dermeleve starts working immediately and is able to provide complete itch relief in as little as five minutes, and last up to five hours. Additionally, due to the fact that it is made with natural ingredients and no corticosteroids like many other anti-itch creams, Dermeleve is safe for long term continued use. You can use it as often and as frequently as you need relief. This is not the case with corticosteroids, which can cause some very bad long-term side effects.

 Dermeleve is a steroid-free anti-itch solution

Additional common treatments for shingles in the eye usually include: 

-An antiviral medicine to help fight the virus and prevent it from spreading

-A pain reliever to help with pain and swelling

-A corticosteroid to decrease inflammation 

-Eye drops or ointment to prevent long-term eye problems such as glaucoma 

There are also some cases in which surgery may be required to prevent vision loss.

How do you prevent shingles in the eye?

There is no better way to prevent shingles than by getting the shingles vaccine. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a vaccine called Shingrix to prevent shingles. Unfortunately, the shingles vaccine does not treat active shingles, though it is effective at preventing shingles..

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people age 50 and older get two doses of the Shingrix vaccine, given 2 to 6 months apart.

If you develop HZO, it’s important to see an eye doctor immediately. Treatment for HZO usually includes antiviral medication and corticosteroids. In some cases, treatment may also include surgery.

Wrap Up

Eye shingles

Shingles of the eye is a serious condition that can be a real pain, both literally and figuratively. But thankfully, there are treatments available that can help lessen the symptoms shingles may inflict on a person. Dermeleve has been shown to provide significant itch relief for those suffering from shingles of the face and eyes, as well as shingles on other areas of the body. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with this condition, we encourage you to visit www.dermeleve.com to learn more about Dermeleve and how it may be able to help you find some much-needed relief. 

Thanks for reading! 

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