One of the most common eye infections is caused by a herpes virus infection in the eye. It can affect the retina, iris, conjunctiva, but one of its most common targets is the cornea. When someone hears they have this infection in the eye, they often think they have a sexually transmitted disease of the eye. However, this is rarely the case. There are two main types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Type 1 is usually related to infections of the mouth and eye, and type 2 is more likely to be associated with sexual transmission. There is some overlap, but generally speaking, HSV of the eye is unrelated to a sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by the same virus that causes cold sores or fever blisters. The virus lies dormant in the trigeminal nerve which provides sensation for the face. It is not clear what exactly activates the virus, but some people think that times of stress, hormonal changes, or ultraviolet light exposure can result in the activation of the virus. When the virus activates it may cause "cold sores" in the mouth, skin rash, or disease of the eye. Typical symptoms include light sensitivity, a scratchy feeling in the eye known as "foreign body sensation," and blurry vision. This can be associated with eye redness, and there is usually not a specific episode of trauma to incite the symptoms. The virus is usually contracted as a child and presents as a conjunctivitis or "pink eye" and it lays dormant for many years. Many times the virus will go away by itself after about two weeks, but treatment can reduce the risk of secondary infections and scarring. In some studies the virus may recur up to about 30% of the time by one year, and up to 50% or so by five years. Chronic antiviral medication such as acyclovir, valtrex, or famciclovir can reduce this risk. The keratitis can be dendritic which appears like small spider ulcers on the surface of the cornea. There may be some inflammation of the eye that needs to be treated with steroid medication such as prednisolone. In severe cases, there may be significant scarring that requires a corneal transplant. If you have had the herpes virus in your eye, or think you may have it, and you live in Austin, Central Texas, Georgetown, Round Rock, or Waco, please call our office to schedule a consultation with cornea specialist Dr. Justin Aaker at 512-686-1224.