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What is herpes simplex keratitis?

David R. Demartini, MD
Ophthalmology
Herpes simplex is a DNA virus that is common infection in humans. Most people are exposed and get a herpes simplex infection as a child in the first decade of life. Usually this infection is fought off by the body and the person becomes relatively immune to further infection. Uncommonly, it will invade the cornea or recur on the cornea of ONE eye. It is rare to have herpes simplex in both eyes. If the herpes infection is caught early on the surface of the eye it can be eradicated with topical drops or gels. If it invades the wall (stroma) of the cornea then it can be a troublesome recurring inflammation and cause scarring. Once a person has herpes simplex in their eye they are at risk of future outbreaks of the virus on the eye.

Herpes simplex keratitis is a type of viral eye infection caused by the same virus that causes cold sores. It is common in children, and resembles viral conjunctivitis. Unlike viral conjunctivitis, it can reactivate multiple times, causing long-term health effects. There is no cure for the disease, but antiviral medication can effectively treat symptoms and promote healing of damaged parts of the eye.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.