Shingles is a painful rash that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Chickenpox is also caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in their body for the rest of their life. In most people, the virus stays dormant. If it becomes active, shingles will occur.
The painful rash typically spreads across the upper body. It is possible for the shingles to break out on the face and in the eyes. If this occurs, it is a serious medical condition that could cause vision problems.
Symptoms of Shingles
Though symptoms vary, the most common symptom of shingles is pain. Some people describe it as a sharp, burning pain. Other symptoms of shingles may include:
- Muscle and joint pain or weakness
- Swollen glands
- Fever and/or chills
- Difficulty with passing urine
If shingles spreads to the face, the symptoms may include:
- Drooping eyelids
- Loss of hearing
- Difficulty moving facial parts
- Problems with taste
- Vision problems
- Inability to move eye
Shingles in the Eye
Once the shingles have spread to the face, a patient is at an increased risk of the shingles spreading to the eye. Once they have spread to the eye, the condition is known as herpes zoster ophthalmicus. People commonly experience redness, itchiness and irritation around the eye. A patient may also be sensitive to light and experience blurred vision.
Anyone who has the symptoms of shingles in the eye should visit their doctor immediately. The doctor will most likely refer the patient to an ophthalmologist who is trained to make an accurate diagnosis. The ophthalmologist may take a sample of the fluid from any blisters that have formed around the eye. This sample will then be sent to a lab to confirm the diagnosis.
Antiviral medications can be prescribed in order to treat the shingles. Those with weakened immune systems may be admitted to the hospital for intravenous antivirals. The doctor will also prescribe eye drops that can be taken to reduce pain and swelling. Steroid eye drops may also be prescribed if the shingles were caught at an early stage. Though most cases of shingles in the eyes will get better within a few weeks, in rare cases, the eye may continue to hurt and may need additional treatment.