Eye herpes

Medically reviewed by Alastair Lockwood, Eye Health Advisor, Ophthalmologist and Eye Surgeon at Feel Good Contacts.

Eye herpes

How can you get herpes in your eye?

You can contract herpes within the eye area. There are three different types of eye herpes (ocular herpes) that can be contracted:


Iridocyclitis is a type of uveitis (eye inflammation) that affects the front sections of the eye. In this particular case, it is the iris (coloured section of the eye) that becomes inflamed. This leads to pain and redness in the eye, light sensitivity and changes in the quality of vision. The infection can also occur in the retina or the inner lining of the back of the eye. In this case, it is known as herpes retinitis.

Herpes Keratitis

This is a viral corneal infection and the most familiar form of eye herpes. This type of ocular herpes generally only affects the upper layer (epithelium) of the cornea and will mostly heal without leaving scars.

Stormal Keratitis

When an infection penetrates deeper into the layers of the cornea, this is referred to as Stromal keratitis. This often results in scarring, impaired vision and on rare occasions, complete blindness. It is usually the result of not responding within adequate time to the initial infection.

What causes herpes in the eye?

Eye herpes can be transmitted in one of two ways:

  • Self-contamination by touching an area of the body already infected with herpes and touching the eye
  • Contact with another person who has herpes

Eye herpes symptoms

Eye herpes has several symptoms. However, some of the symptoms of ocular herpes have similar characteristics to other eye-related infections. This is why it’s important to monitor the symptoms and seek medical attention if they become more severe or don’t disappear. It may require further examination by a medical professional to fully diagnose ocular herpes.

General symptoms of ocular herpes include:

  • Redness in and around the eye
  • Bloodshot eyes that appear slightly veiny
  • Irritation in and around the eye area
  • Light sensitivity
  • Watery eyes and a continuous watery discharge
  • Eyesores
  • The constant sensation of something being in the eye
  • Swelling around the eye area

Eye herpes treatment

Eye herpes has no cure and can reoccur over time. Antibiotic or steroidal drops are usually used to alleviate and treat symptoms instead. The exact type of treatment given will be decided by an examining doctor. In cases when the cornea is scarred, surgery might be required.

Quick links:

What to do when you have an eye infection
What causes bloodshot eyes?
Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist & Optician

Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace medical care or an in-person check-up. Please check with an eyecare professional before purchasing any products or remedies. For information on our article review process, please refer to our Editorial Policy.

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