Shingles and Your Eyes

How can shingles impact my eyes and vision?

Shingles (Herpes zoster) is caused by the recurrence of the chicken pox virus. It causes painful eruptions of vesicles which later scab over in different parts of the body. Unfortunately, the infection often leaves people with chronic, debilitating pain.

Although often thought to only affect your skin, for many, shingles involves the area around the eye. Shingles around and/or in the eye can cause vision loss, cornea ulcers, glaucoma, headaches, and severe pain.

Who is at risk?

If you’ve had chicken pox, you’re at risk for contracting shingles later in life.

People over 50 years old who have weakened immune systems due to stress, medications, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy are more susceptible to shingles.

How can I take preventative measures?

The CDC recommends the Zostavax vaccine for those 60 and older. This vaccine has been approved by the FDA for people 50 years of age and older. However, it’s important to understand that the effect of the vaccine only lasts 5 years.

If you haven’t had a shingles vaccine in the last 5 years and you are 50 or older, talk to your primary care physician.

What can I do to protect my eyes if I’m diagnosed with shingles?

The best way to protect your eyes is to avoid touching your face. If you must touch your eyes, wash your hands thoroughly.

If you notice a rash on your eyelid, forehead, or nose, schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist. Early detection and treatment can prevent permanent vision loss. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

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