What are the Symptoms of Shingles in the Eye?

Shingles in the eye, also known as herpes zoster ophthalmicus, is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus responsible for chickenpox. When the virus reactivates, it can affect the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve, causing a painful condition that primarily affects the eye and surrounding areas. The symptoms of shingles in the eye can be severe and should be promptly evaluated and treated by a healthcare professional. Here are the key symptoms:

  • Severe Eye Pain: Pain is one of the most prominent symptoms of shingles in the eye and is often described as intense, stabbing, or burning. The pain typically occurs in or around the eye and can be excruciating.
  • Rash: A characteristic rash may develop on the forehead, eyelids, and sometimes the tip of the nose. The rash consists of red, fluid-filled blisters that can be painful and itchy. The rash often follows the path of the affected ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve.
  • Eye Redness: The eye may become red and inflamed, and the conjunctiva (the white part of the eye) can become congested.
  • Sensitivity to Light: People with shingles in the eye often experience extreme sensitivity to light, a condition known as photophobia.
  • Blurry Vision: Vision disturbances can occur, including blurred vision, double vision, or even temporary loss of vision.
  • Tearing: Excessive tearing or watery eyes can be a symptom, and this can be accompanied by discharge.
  • Swelling: Swelling around the eye and eyelids is common.
  • Eye Involvement: In severe cases, shingles can affect different parts of the eye, including the cornea (keratitis), the iris (iritis), or the retina (retinitis), which can lead to vision problems and complications.

It’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you have shingles in the eye, as it can lead to serious complications, including vision loss. Antiviral medications, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, are often prescribed to reduce the duration and severity of the infection. Additionally, pain management and treatment of complications like corneal involvement may be necessary. An eye specialist or ophthalmologist should evaluate and manage the condition to prevent long-term eye damage and ensure the best possible outcome for the patient.