Any Treatment of Shingles in the Eye

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Generally, when people think of shingles, they picture a blistering rash on the abdomen or the chest. However, a more serious form of shingles can develop around the eye, ear and nose. It is not a very common medical condition, but when the varicella zoster virus attacks the face, people need to seek treatment of shingles right away. Even waiting just a couple of days can be dangerous, Mayo Clinic doctors warn. Shingles can lead to serious consequences, like the need for surgery or blindness if the eye area is affected.

Time is of the essence with treatment for shingles. “These medications are doing more than just making the patient feel better,” says ophthalmologist Dr. Keith Baratz. “They’re reducing the risk of something very serious happening down the road.” Shingles in the eye is related to eye disorders such as pink eye, glaucoma, eyelid edema, blepharitis, ptosis, optic neuritis, retinitis and postherpetic neuralgia. Patients undergoing treatment of shingles need to know that inflammation can affect the eye for decades after the rash onset. Often people feel pretty sick at first, but during the first day or two, symptoms can be as subtle as a red, inflamed eye and a minor rash. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to loss of vision, glaucoma and corneal scratching, Dr. Baratz warns.

The shingles varicella zoster virus sometimes starts with a week of headaches or a strange pain on one side of the face. Fatigue and mild fever often accompany the virus. The skin around the eye becomes tender and a chickenpox-like rash develops. One small lesion or cluster of red spots might appear on the tip of the nose or beneath the eye next. Sometimes sufferers wake up with an eye swelled shut. This rash causes intense itching, eye watering, impaired vision and eye swelling that can be almost unbearable. After a week or so, the blisters usually dry up and fade but there can be long-lasting symptoms if treatment of shingles is not done promptly and effectively.

The treatment of shingles usually involves prescribed lubricating eyedrops or antibiotic eyedrops. Within the first 72 hours of the appearance of the rash, doctors prescribe antiviral medication like acyclovir, which attacks the virus directly and prevents long-term, never-ending pain and complications. Occasionally, steroids may be recommended to reduce inflammation. Since herpes viruses have a tendency to stay in the body and attack again when the immune system is weakened, it’s important to get diagnosed and treated early.

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