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Eye and Vision Care

Cold Sore and Eye

03/30/2010

Question:

Is it possible for the same virus that is responsible for the cold sore to spread to the eye. If so, how do you know you have it? And if you have it, how soon should you go to the doctor? What are the complications of having it in your inner lid?

Answer:

That is an accurate assumption that the same virus responsible for a cold sore is the same one responsible for certain viral infections of the eye. The virus in question is Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type I. This is not to be confused with the genital herpes infection HSV Type II. A high percentage of the US population has antibodies for HSV I, so it is rather prevalent, but many people never show any signs (such as a cold sore).

This virus is commonly contracted through behaviors such as kissing someone with an active cold sore. The virus particles infect the previously non-infected person and travel up the sensory nerve of the face. This same nerve is responsible for sensation of the ocular (eye) region and oral (mouth) regions of the face. So if the mouth is infected, it could lead to an infection of the eye later on.

If you suspect that you have a herpetic infection on or around the eye, it would be important to see an eye care professional quickly, as these lesions are uncomfortable and potentially could lead to scarring (most important for corneal infections).

There are minimal complications for having the lesions on your eyelid, however if they are present, those lesions are very contagious.

If there is any doubt, please see an eye care professional.

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Response by:

Aaron  Zimmerman, OD, MS Aaron Zimmerman, OD, MS
Clinical Associate Professor of Optometry
College of Optometry
The Ohio State University