Shingles of the eye

Most of us have heard of shingles and if not shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus the same virus that causes chickenpox. After having chickenpox the virus stays in the body dormant in the body in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. Years later it may become active again as shingles, as a painful rash. Did you know you can also get shingles of the eye? Shingles in or around an eye (Ophthalmic Shingles) can cause painful eye infections even vision loss.

New research reveals that cases of eye-based shingles have tripled since 2004. Researchers also found that those over 75 years of age were at higher risk as were Caucasian and women.


The medical term for shingles of the eye is herpes zoster ophthalmicus. Symptoms include:

  • Pain which is usually is first
  • Blistering on the upper eyelid, usually only one side of the face
  • Redness and/or swelling around the eyelids
  • Inability to move the eye itchiness and irritation of the eye sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light

Around the eye, a person may experience:

  • burning pain
  • redness or a rash
  • skin sensitivity

While these symptoms can indicate shingles, they can also characterize other eye conditions. Anyone with any of these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.

Shingles of the eye can cause severe complications such as corneal ulcers, scarring, inflammation, glaucoma and acute retinal necrosis – a severe condition that can cause blindness.


Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles as a preventive measure, before the virus is reactivated. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends being vaccinated against shingles for people aged 50 and over. The CDC recommends 2 vaccines Shingrix or Zostavax, of the two the CDC prefers Shingrix as it is 97% effective in adults age 50 to 69 with 2 doses and 91% effective in adults aged 70 and over with 2 doses.


Treatments include pain relievers, nerve pain medications and antiviral therapies are common treatment, if started early enough, patients can begin to have relief within 72 hours.






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