Many of us are familiar with the common cold, stomach flu, and other viruses that affect our noses, mouths, and stomachs. But did you know that several viruses can also infect the eyes? Viral eye infections can cause redness, pain, and discomfort and may lead to more serious complications if left untreated. In this article, we explore the types of viruses that can infect the eyes, their symptoms, and available treatment options.
While many viruses can potentially infect the eyes, only a few are commonly seen. Among these common viral infections are adenovirus and herpes viruses.
Adenovirus is a respiratory virus that is often the cause of the common cold. This virus can spread through coughing, sneezing, or touching contaminated surfaces. It can also infect the eyes and cause red or pink eye, also known as “conjunctivitis.” Adenovirus infections often occur in crowded settings, such as schools, hospitals, and daycare centers.
Adenovirus typically infects the conjunctiva of the eye, a clear membrane that covers the white portion of the eyeball and the inside of the eyelids. Infected conjunctiva becomes red and irritated and gives the eyes a classic pink appearance.
A person with an adenovirus infection may also experience eye discharge, itching, or discomfort. There are very few treatment options for adenovirus infection, and most of the treatment is based on improving comfort and reducing any risk of spreading the virus.
Betadine wash is considered the most effective treatment for adenovirus infection. This medication is put into the eyes in an optometrist’s office and is used to remove any virus particles in the eyes. Other treatments include artificial tears for comfort and cool compresses to relieve pain.
An adenovirus infection will generally last up to a week and goes away on its own in most cases. However, it is possible to have an infection in one eye and have it spread to the other eye. Adenovirus can be spread by contacting the infected eye and then the non-infected eye. This could happen by rubbing your eyes with your hand or using a towel on both eyes.
If you have a red eye that causes tearing, you may have an adenovirus infection and should consider going to your eye doctor for an evaluation.
Herpes is a group of different viruses, and many viruses in the herpes family can infect the eyes and cause serious issues. In fact, the herpes virus is the most common cause of infectious blindness in developed countries.
Herpes viruses usually infect the cornea, the central clear portion of the front of the eye. When left untreated, herpes infections can cause a range of symptoms, including red eyes, painful eyes, and decreased vision. They are often associated with a rash on the body or the face.
Herpes simplex is a virus in the herpes family that can cause Herpes Simplex Keratitis. This condition is a serious form of herpes simplex virus that affects the cornea and needs immediate treatment by an eye doctor.
Herpes Simplex Keratitis can be treated with medications, and it usually does not have any long-term effects. However, it may occur again after treatment.
Varicella zoster is another herpes virus that can cause Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus, a form of shingles. Shingles typically occur on one side of the face and have a rash with it. This virus causes Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus, which is a serious condition needing immediate medical attention.
Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus can be treated with medications, but it may cause long-term pain if it's not treated within a few days of onset.
If you have had chickenpox, you already have the Varicella zoster virus in your body. But if you have not had chickenpox or were not vaccinated for chickenpox, you do not have the virus. There is also a vaccine available for shingles and herpes zoster ophthalmicus.
Viral infections are common, and they can infect the nose, mouth, stomach, and, of course, the eyes. To avoid viral infections, people must have good hygiene practices.
Washing your hands frequently, especially after being in a public place, is the single most important step to prevent the spread of viruses. Avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth. Wear glasses or goggles when it is necessary to protect your eyes. Stay away from crowded places when you are sick and stay home if you are feeling unwell.