Can Herpes Blind you? Let’s find out. Herpes Infections are one of the most frequently recorded infections in the United States. Nearly 500,000 people get a herpes infection within their eyes every year. It is the most common cause of corneal blindness globally.
There are many parts of the eye it can affect, including the eyelids, conjunctiva, sclera, and iris.
However, general herpes infections within the eye do not always cause blindness. The risk increases when it infects a specific part of the eye.
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Herpes can infect the cornea– light-sensitive tissue covering the eyeballs. In most cases, the infection can be cured with eye drops or may absolve on its own. However, the disease can also progress and lead to serious cases of blindness.
How Herpes Causes Corneal Blindness?
The cornea acts as a protective layer for the iris and pupil within the eyes and helps light rays connect to the retina. Doing this helps the brain form a clear picture of the surroundings by receiving light information through the cornea.
When damaged, this ability to react to light reduced, and the brain is only able to create a distorted, blurred, or unclear picture. Herpes causes clusters of ulcers throughout the eye, which in turn, cause the transparent layer of the cornea to become swollen and cloudy.
This cloudiness typically becomes permanent and leads to complete blindness. Current medication or surgery cannot help with cases of complete blindness caused by corneal damage.
It’s important to understand that Herpes rarely causes blindness directly. Complications arising from the condition can lead to further damage leading to vision loss and then blindness.
Most cases of Herpes can be treated with antiviral medication and subside within 1 or 2 weeks. However, 25 percent of cases develop at least some form of complication.
Some cases can lead to permanent scarring of the cornea that creates a barrier between the eye and light, leading to blurred vision. Severe cases may require a cornea transplant to replace the damaged one. However, previous infections lead to high rejection rates for the new cornea.
Viral infections are often responsible for creating a bacterial or fungal infection once they enter the bloodstream.
Herpes is becoming more resistant to common antiviral drugs and eye drops, making further infection more likely. Moreover, the low infection-fighting abilities of the eyes allow infections to thrive for prolonged periods of time. Antiviral and antibiotic medication is necessary to prevent further damage.
Herpes can also reach the optic nerves within the eye and cause glaucoma. These nerves are responsible for sending visual signals to the brain. Once damaged, these can lead to irreversible blindness.
While some form of vision loss is common with herpes complications, permanent vision loss is rare. Most affected individuals will recover without reaching this stage, but permanent vision loss is a possibility and affects more than 12 percent of people worldwide.
Many patients often delay treatment or downplay the warning signs. In some cases, the virus does not cause any symptoms at all, which is the main reason for its growth and eventual blindness. Keep reading to learn about some common symptoms to look out for.
The infection manifests with different severity in each individual, but symptoms are identical across most cases.
Affected individuals usually experience dull but persistent pain in and around their eyes. The virus more commonly causes discomfort in only one eye compared to other infections.
The redness within the eye may be unnoticeable in the early stage and only become highlighted when the infection grows.
Swelling or cloudiness within the cornea can lead to blurry vision. You may also feel that something is stuck within the eye, which is usually caused by small swollen spots inside the cornea.
When your eye tries to get rid of the foreign virus, it will release excessive fluid. This becomes more evident when you read, write or try to focus on small objects.
Watching TV, looking at your phone, or even using indirect light can feel uncomfortable. Light sensitivity is the first symptom you will have before any pain or redness.
Most cases of herpes infection absolve on their own within 1 or 2 weeks. It is still important to take action and prevent more growth as soon as possible. If your Herpes has not caused vision loss or blindness, the following interventions can help:
Antiviral eye drops can stop the spread of the virus and prevent it from creating ulcers responsible for causing blindness.
These are used to reduce inflammation and eye pain. Steroids are typically used in combination with other antiviral drops or medications.
Antiviral Tablets are only needed in cases of severe infection and also help patients develop immunity against future reinfection.
In cases of blindness or vision loss, you may require a cornea transplant to replace the damaged parts. The surgery takes only an hour to complete and results in quick recovery of vision loss.
The type of transplant you get will depend on the severity of your case and the particular part of the cornea which is damaged.
In cases a cornea transplant is not possible, deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (DALK) may be conducted. DALK involves reshaping the outer and inner layers of the cornea to bring back vision.
Herpes within the eyes is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. While the symptoms are subtle, the condition can grow serious very quickly. It’s important to use antivirals as soon as you suspect an infection.
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Currently, there are no preventative measures you can take to avoid the infection. Despite substantial research, a cure for herpes-induced corneal blindness has not been found.
It is, therefore, crucial to minimize the symptoms as soon as they appear to reduce the risk of complications.
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