Herpes Keratitis

Illustration of cross-section of an eye.

You have an infection of the cornea (the clear part in the front of the eye) with the herpes simplex virus. This infection is called herpes keratitis. Herpes simplex is the same virus that causes cold sores.

Symptoms include a red, painful eye with sensitivity to light and blurred vision.

Herpes keratitis is a very serious disease. Although it usually responds well to treatment, if it is not treated, it can cause blindness.

Treatment is with antiviral eye drops. This will clear up the symptoms. However, like cold sores on the lip, the herpes infection in the eye can return. Watch for the earliest signs of symptoms returning so you can begin treatment right away. Prompt treatment reduces your chance of permanent eye damage.

Home care

  • Use eye drops as directed.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine unless another medicine was prescribed. Talk to your healthcare provider about using over-the-counter pain medicines safely, especially if you have chronic liver or kidney disease, or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • A cold pack (ice in a plastic bag, wrapped in a towel) may be applied over the closed eye for 20 minutes at a time to reduce pain.

Follow-up care

Follow up with the eye specialist you were referred to, or as advised. You should have another exam within 48 hours to be sure you are responding to the medicine.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Increasing eye pain or pain that does not improve after 24 hours

  • Thick discharge from the eye

  • Increasing redness of the eye

  • Swelling of the eyelids or painful blisters on the eyelids

  • Pain or redness in the other eye

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