Chickenpox Virus and Its Effects to the Eyes

by Sep 25, 2023

Chickenpox, caused by the varicella-zoster virus, is a common childhood illness characterized by itchy skin rashes and fever. While the primary infection typically resolves on its own, the virus can lie dormant in the nerves for years. In some cases, the virus can reactivate later in life and cause a condition known as shingles. Shingles can affect various parts of the body, including the head, face, and eyes. In this blog, we will explore how the chicken pox virus can impact the eyes and the available treatments.


The Role of Chickenpox Virus in Eye Infections

Shingles and its Relationship to Chicken Pox: Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus that causes chicken pox. The virus lies dormant in the nerve cells after the primary chickenpox infection but can become active later in life due to various triggers like aging, stress, or a weakened immune system.

Ophthalmic Shingles: When shingles affect the head, face, and eyes, it is called ophthalmic shingles. The virus follows the nerves and can reach the ocular region, leading to eye-related symptoms and complications. Ophthalmic shingles can cause pain, redness, and even blurred vision.


Understanding the Impact on the Eyes

Ocular Symptoms: Ophthalmic shingles can affect different parts of the eye, such as the cornea, conjunctiva, and retina. The symptoms may include eye pain, redness, sensitivity to light, tearing, and blurred vision. If the virus involves the cornea, it can lead to a condition called herpes zoster ophthalmicus, which can cause corneal ulcers and potentially threaten vision.

Complications and Risks: If left untreated or improperly managed, ophthalmic shingles can lead to various complications, including permanent eye damage and vision loss. Corneal scarring, glaucoma, and inflammation within the eye (iritis or uveitis) are potential risks associated with severe shingles infections involving the eyes.


Treatment and Management of Ophthalmic Shingles

Antiviral Medications: In cases of active shingles infection, antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir, are commonly prescribed. These medications help reduce the severity and duration of the infection. Early initiation of antiviral treatment is crucial for optimal outcomes.

Pain Management: Ophthalmic shingles can be accompanied by considerable pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications may be recommended by a healthcare professional to alleviate discomfort.

Eye Drops and Ointments: Lubricating eye drops can provide relief from dryness and irritation caused by the infection. In certain cases, topical corticosteroids or antiviral eye ointments may be prescribed to manage inflammation and aid in healing.

Prophylactic Treatment: Individuals with ophthalmic shingles should be closely monitored, as the virus can cause recurrent infections. In some cases, long-term antiviral prophylactic treatment may be recommended to lower the risk of future outbreaks.

Optometric Consultation: Seeking prompt medical attention from an ophthalmologist or eye care specialist is essential in cases of suspected ophthalmic shingles. A comprehensive eye examination can help determine the extent of ocular involvement and guide appropriate treatment strategies.


Preventing Ophthalmic Shingles

Vaccination plays a critical role in preventing chicken pox and reducing the risk of shingles. The varicella vaccine is routinely administered to young children, and a separate shingles vaccine is recommended for adults. Vaccination not only lowers the chances of developing shingles but also decreases the severity of the infection should it occur.


Our eye doctors at Neal Eye Group in Conshohocken, PA excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases. Call our optometrists at (610) 828-9701 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to learn more about the chicken pox virus and its effects on the eyes. Our optometrists provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Conshohocken, Norristown, Plymouth Meeting, Lafayette Hill, and Philadelphia.

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