Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, is a viral disease that leads to a painful rash and small fluid-filled blisters or vesicles forming scabs, often leaving permanent scars behind. You can develop shingles on any body part, including the eyes. When it affects the eye, it’s called herpes zoster ophthalmicus or HZO. Timely shingles eye swelling treatment helps prevent long-term shingles complications. To learn more about shingles eye swelling symptoms, causes, and shingles eye swelling prevention, visit us for an appointment at the best eye hospital in Nagercoil.
What Causes Shingles in The Eye?
Varicella-zoster, the virus responsible for chickenpox, resides in the nerves of patients who have previously had chickenpox. While typically, the virus is dormant; it may get reactivated in patients with a compromised immune system, either due to illness or age. This may appear as a rash on the ribs, back, and chest. At times it also shows up on other areas, such as the legs or face.
Experts state that the cases of shingles in the eye have increased due to the amplified stress levels and our weakening immune system.
What Are the Symptoms of Shingles in The Eye?
There is a huge difference between shingles being around the eye and in the eye. Shingles in the eye appear on the white part of the eye, called the sclera. This can cause serious complications, including vision impairment and even vision loss – sometimes, even after the area is healed. If the rash appears around the patient’s eye, doctors refer to it as eye involvement. It causes the eyelids to swell, with rashes appearing on the forehead, nose, and upper eyelid.
No matter where the shingles appear, the symptoms usually show up on one side of the individual’s body, which means that if you have shingles in the eye or even around your eye, the virus will most likely not spread to the other side of your face.
People with shingles in the eye are sensitive to light and have watery eyes, experience vision impairment, facial tingling, eye pain, rashes or red blisters on the face, and swollen or red eyelids. You may also witness certain generalised symptoms, such as low-grade fever, headache, flu-like symptoms, and fatigue.
What Are the Risk Factors Involved?
If someone experiences chickenpox as a child, they will likely develop shingles in the eye later in life. If you experienced shingles symptoms as a young adult or during your teenage, you might probably experience them again post the age of 50.
A compromised immune system can also amplify your chances of getting shingles in the eye. This could be because of chemotherapy, age, HIV, or autoimmune diseases. Medications, such as corticosteroids and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) drugs, may also weaken one’s immune system.
Stress can usually be a factor that leads to shingles in the eye. Premature infants and pregnant ladies often face a high risk of developing this condition. Your eye and the surrounding region could experience long-term damage when you get shingles in the eye. This damage could include cornea injury, permanent scarring, postherpetic neuralgia, swollen retina, glaucoma, and permanent or temporary loss of vision. If you already suffer from an eye condition like glaucoma, it does not entail that you are more likely to develop shingles in the eye.
How To Prevent Shingles in The Eye?
One cannot get shingles in the eye if they haven’t had chickenpox. Therefore, kids and adults must vaccinate themselves if they have never been exposed to the varicella-zoster virus. You can also get the shingles vaccine if you have had chickenpox at some point. Even though the same virus causes chickenpox and shingles, the shingles vaccine is stronger and could save you from the secondary illness. The vaccine is suggested for people over 50. If you contract shingles in the eye, stay away from everyone, especially if they are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, or have never had chickenpox.
Remember not to touch the eye and keep the area of the rash covered to prevent the virus from spreading. Although the rash won’t spread if you touch other parts of your body after touching it, it’s best to take the necessary precautions to ensure it remains contained.
Don’t scratch the rash, and wash your hands if you need to scratch it. One cannot determine where the blisters might appear if they already have shingles. Much like touching your eye might not cause it to spread, it could just reach your eye based on how it travels along your nerves.
Diagnosis And Treatment
A doctor can usually recognise shingles in the eye pretty easily after listening to your symptoms and examining the rash. Medical professionals can pin down the reason easily due to the feature of the condition that causes it to remain contained to one side of the face. If you have shingles in the eye, your doctor could examine different parts of your eye along with the surrounding areas, such as your face, eyelids, retina, lens, cornea, and scalp.
The medical professional will then check for swelling and other issues that often accompany this condition after examining you for shingles in different regions of your body. To determine the extent of the effects of the rash on your eye, they could also ask you to get your vision tested. At the end of it, if a physical exam does not seem satisfactory enough to your doctor, they could take a fluid sample from the blisters to test for the shingles virus.
Antiviral medication usually treats shingles in the eye. These medicines help clear the rash more quickly, stop the virus from spreading, heal the blisters, and alleviate nerve pain.
You must take the medication within three days of discovering the symptoms because the sooner you begin the treatment, the higher your chances of recovery. Your doctor could suggest additional treatments if the rash spreads to the eye. These treatments could include steroid pills or eye drops. Since the condition could severely affect the eye, you must be very careful. The doctor usually prescribes antidepressants and pain medicines for those who develop postherpetic neuralgia.