Herpes Simplex Virus

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is not only responsible for cold sores on the lip, but also infections of the eye.  Once a patient is infected with the HSV virus, it is never fully eliminated so it can recur throughout a patient’s lifetime.  There are about 500,000 eye infections involving HSV per year in the United States alone.

HSV on the Eye
HSV on the Eye

How is HSV treated?
HSV diagnosis is usually based on history and typical clinical appearance on examination. Infrequently, the diagnosis can be aided by laboratory studies. Treating individuals with ocular HSV is one of the most challenging conditions seen by an ophthalmologist because the virus can affect the eye many different ways:

  • Dermatitis (eyelid and surrounding skin)
  • Epithelial or surface disease (dendritic)
  • Stromal disease (involving the middle layer of the cornea)
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the inside of the eye)
  • Post-infectious ulcers (metaherpetic)

A patient may have more than one type of involvement at any given time. Appropriate treatment may vary and is personalized to each individual and their presentation.  HSV is often treated with topical antiviral eye drops. Sometimes the condition may require oral anti-viral medications and topical steroids.