How is herpetic eye disease diagnosed?

The two different types of herpetic eye disease have different symptoms. One thing they have in common, however, is that they can both be very painful because they affect the nerves directly.

The problem may be caused by herpes zoster ophthalmicus if your doctor finds some or all of these symptoms:

  • Pain in and around only one eye
  • Redness, rash or sores on the eyelids and around the eyes, especially on the forehead (and sometime on the tip of the nose). Its appearance is similar to poison ivy blisters that turn into scabs over 1 to 2 weeks. The rash is subtle in younger people and more severe in older.
  • Redness of the eye
  • Swelling and cloudiness of the cornea
  • Flu-like symptoms (low-grade fever, generally feeling unwell)
  • Tingling/numbness in forehead before the rash appears

The problem may be caused by herpes simplex keratitis if your doctor sees these symptoms:

  • Pain in and around only one eye
  • Redness of the eye
  • Decreased vision
  • Feeling of dirt or "grit" in the eye
  • Overflowing tears
  • Pain when looking at bright light
  • Swelling or cloudiness of the cornea

Many other conditions can display these symptoms, so it is necessary for a doctor to perform a full examination of the eye to learn the cause. Your doctor might want to use special tests if it looks like herpetic eye disease might be present. He or she will probably check the pressure inside the eye, for example. There is also a special dye called fluorescein that the doctor might put into the eye. This dye glows under ultraviolet light and can help to show the doctor if the virus is causing problems on the surface of the eye.

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