Herpes keratitis is a type of eye infection caused by a
virus from the herpes family, usually type 1 herpes
simplex. The herpes simplex virus is commonly known
for causing flu-like symptoms and cold sores. People
usually acquire the herpes simplex virus during
childhood, but the virus does not cause symptoms for
many years until some type of physical or emotional
stressor activates it.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HERPES KERATITIS?
Signs and symptoms include painful inflammation and ulcers (open sores) of the cornea.
The cornea is the clear covering at the front of the eyeball. The type of ulcer that occurs
in herpes keratitis is often referred to as a dendritic (tree-shaped) ulcer because of its
tree-like and branching shape.
These ulcers can actually cause scars on the cornea. The whites of the eyes are also
inflamed in herpes keratitis.
WHAT ARE COMPLICATIONS OF HERPES KERATITIS?
Herpes keratitis can cause vision loss and even blindness if not treated. In fact, herpes
keratitis is the most common cause of blindness due to corneal damage in the U.S.
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HOW IS HERPES KERATITIS TREATED?
Herpes keratitis is treated with anti-viral medication in the form of
eye drops or pills taken by mouth. This prevents the infection from
penetrating deeper into the eyeball. The deeper the infection gets
into the eye, the more difficult it is to treat and control and the more
likely it is to cause permanent damage and blindness.
WHAT IS THE PROGNOSIS FOR PEOPLE WITH HERPES
Prognosis is relatively good provided the condition is treated early. However, despite treatment, the
herpes virus continues to live in the body, causing additional flare-ups when exposed to stressors. The
stressor can be emotional (e.g., anxiety) or physical (e.g., fever, eye injury, sunburn).
WHAT ELSE IS HERPES KERATITIS KNOWN AS?
Herpes keratitis is also known as herpetic keratitis, herpes corneae, and herpetic keratoconjunctivitis.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM, HERPES KERATITIS?
Herpes keratitis comes from the Greek word "herpes" meaning "a spreading skin eruption," the Greek
word “keras” meaning “horn,” and the Greek word “itis” meaning “inflammation.” Put the words together
and you get “a spreading skin eruption (and) horn inflammation.”