What is shingles of the eye?

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Shingles of the eye: Overview

Shingles of the eye is a painful viral infection on the eye. It can also cause swelling of the eyelid. Most people have a rash and blisters on the forehead, nose, and upper eyelid. It's caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Shingles of the eye starts with pain and tingling on one side of your forehead or nose. In the eye, it can cause pain, redness, swelling, sensitivity to light, and blurry vision. If it gets worse, it can lead to some loss of vision or blindness.

Quick treatment is needed. Your doctor may give you medicines to take by mouth to treat the virus, plus eyedrops or ointments. You may have a strict treatment plan that involves taking medicine several times a day. Your doctor will watch your progress closely. Treatment is usually done at home. Severe cases may be treated in a hospital.

How can you care for yourself when you have shingles of the eye?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over- the-counter medicine.
  • Try not to scratch or pick at any blisters on your skin. They will crust over and fall off on their own if you leave them alone.
  • Put cool, wet cloths on the area to relieve pain and itching. You can use calamine lotion on the blisters on your skin. But don't get any lotion in your eye.
  • Avoid close contact with people until the blisters have healed. The blisters contain the chickenpox virus. It can be spread to other people. It is very important for you to avoid contact with anyone who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. Pregnant women, young babies, and anyone else who has a hard time fighting infection (such as someone with HIV, diabetes, or cancer) are most at risk.

Shingles of the eye: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse eye pain, or your vision gets worse.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You have a severe headache and a stiff neck.
  • You feel depressed.
  • You can't think clearly.
  • Blisters spread to new parts of your body.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • The rash has not healed after 2 to 4 weeks.
  • You still have pain after the rash has healed.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.