What is shingles?

Shingles is a painful red rash that is covered with blisters, these blisters often break open and a scab then forms to cover them. Herpes zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox causes this condition.

After you have had chicken pox, the virus stays in your body’s nerve cells. It may remain dormant (not active) and you will not have any symptoms. But sometimes the virus becomes active again and causes new problems.

As you get older, Herpes zoster can become active again as part of your body’s natural aging process. 

A weakened immune system can also cause this disease to arise again. Causes behind a weak immune system may be:

  • disease (such as HIV or other diseases of the immune system)
  • fatigue
  • stress or anxiety
  • malnutrition
  • chemotherapy or radiation 
  • medicines that suppress your immune system

What are shingles symptoms?

  • pain
  • itching
  • tingling of the skin
  • redness and numbness that leads to a rash
  • blisters that break open and scab over

How does shingles affect the eye?

If this virus infects the nerves of the eye, problems can occur, such as:

  • a rash on eyelids
  • redness, burning, and oozing on white part of your eye
  • dry eye
  • risk of bacterial eye infections
  • blurry vision and 
  • extra sensitivity to bright light
  • pain and swelling

When shingles affects the eye, more severe problems may occur, such as, glaucoma, cataracts, double vision and scarring of the eyelid or cornea.

How are eye symptoms from shingles treated?

Treatment will focus on relieving the symptoms of shingles. It may include:

  • cool and moist compresses over your eyes
  • taking medicine to treat the virus
  • using eye drops to fight infection or moisten eyes

If your case of shingles is caused by other eye disease, a different treatment may be necessary. Your ophthalmologist will discuss surgery or other types of treatment.

A vaccine is recommended for people 60 and older to prevent singles. This vaccine lowers the risk of developing this condition; however, it does not treat active shingles.

Summary

The herpes zoster virus causes shingles. It can cause eye problems with symptoms such as a rash on the eyelids, cornea problems, blurry vision, pain and swelling.

Treatment is focused on relieving the rash, swelling and pain. If shingles has caused major eye problems like corneal scarring, your doctor will discuss other treatment options.

Speak with an ophthalmologist from the West Boca Eye Center if you have any questions about your eyes or your vision. If you have shingles, you are contagious, therefore, avoid being around people who may be more easily infected: infants, pregnant women and people with a weak immune system.