Can You Get Herpes In Your Eyes?

The conversations and social views around much of healthcare have changed in the last few decades. Mental health, reproductive health, and sexual health are much more widely talked about and understood. But there are still some aspects of sexuality and its associated diseases that are largely misunderstood.

We have come a long way from the panic of the early HIV and AIDS epidemic that swept through much of the world throughout the early '80s and into the '90s, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, there is currently no cure, but the University of California San Francisco Health states that new treatments are effective at many stages of the disease.

Some people may not be aware of how common another sexually transmitted infection (STI) actually is. Yet, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 3.7 billion people worldwide carry one out of the two strains of herpes viruses, known as HSV-1. However, the National Institute of Health refers to the second type, HSV-2, as one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) around the world, and for good reason.

In fact, herpes can cause not only genital warts but cold sores and even eye infections, as per WHO. Nonetheless, it ultimately comes down to which strain a person has contracted.

Only one herpes strain affects the eyes

Although most people know herpes as a singular term, the virus actually comes in two types. In other words, people usually have either HSV-1 or HSV-2, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both forms can cause genital herpes. In fact, 572,000 new cases develop each year in America alone.

But while both forms of the virus can cause genital herpes, only one form seems to affect other areas of the body, namely the eyes and mouth. The United Kingdom's National Health Service states that HSV-1 is responsible for both cold sores and any eye infection caused by herpes simplex.

A herpes simplex eye infection causes the affected eye to be watery, red, and the area around it to swell. Additionally, it can also cause blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and eye pain. And as with any eye infection, it is important for people to seek medical attention.

HSV-1 eye infections generally occur when herpes already present in someone's body becomes active and attacks a particular set of nerves. In this case, those would be the nerves connected to the eyes (via Cedars-Sinai). Some people may be shocked by the infection as the herpes virus can lay dormant for some time before reactivating. Regardless, if reactivated, people should promptly speak to a healthcare physician.