Can Viruses Infect Your Eyes?

by Apr 26, 2021Eye Disease, Pediatrics

There are many viruses that can infect they eyes. Most viruses only infect the outer portions of the eye including the cornea, conjunctiva, and the eyelids.


Types of Viruses that can Infect Eyes

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 in the Eyes

Adenovirus is a respiratory virus which is often the cause of the common cold. This virus can infect the eyes and cause a red or pink eye.  The adenovirus actually infects the conjunctiva of the eye which is a clear covering over the white portion of the eyeball and on the inside of the eyelids.

Adenovirus infections are often called “pink eye” or conjunctivitis. Since the conjunctiva is infect, it becomes red and irritated and gives the eyes the classic pink appearance.

There are very few treatment options for an adenovirus infection. Most of the treatment is based on improving the comfort and reducing any risk of spreading the virus.

Of the treatments that are used, a betadine wash is considered the most effective. This is a medication that is put into the eyes in an optometrist’s office and is used to remove any virus particles on the eyes.

Other treatments include artificial tears for comfort and cool compresses to relieve pain.

An adenovirus infection will not typically last more than a week and will go away on its own in most cases. However, it is common to have an infection in one eye and have it spread to the other eye.

The adenovirus is spread by contacting the infected eye and then the noninfected eye. This could be 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 Viruses in the Eyes

Herpes is a group of different viruses. Many viruses in the herpes family can infect the eyes and cause serious issues.

Herpes viruses usually infect the cornea which is the central clear portion of the front of the eye.

Herpes infections can cause red eyes, painful eyes, and even decrease vision. They are often associated with a rash on the body or the face.

Herpes simplex is a virus in the herpes family and can cause Herpes Simplex Keratitis which is a serious condition that needs to be treated by an eye doctor.

Herpes Simplex Keratitis can be treated with medications and will not usually have any long term effects but may occur again after treatment.

Varicella zoster is a virus in the herpes family and causes Herpes Zoster Opthalmicus. This condition is associated with shingles. It will normally be found on one side of the face and have a rash with it.

Herpes zoster opthalmicus can also be treated with medications but may have long term pain if not treated within a few days of the onset.

If you have had chickenpox, you already have the Varicella zoster virus in your body. However, if you have not or were vaccinated for chickenpox you do not. There is also a vaccine available for shingles and herpes zoster opthalmicus.


Viral Infections are Common

Viruses infect our noses, mouths, stomachs, and our eyes. It is important to have good hygiene to avoid viral infections, but they are still among the most common infection for all people.

Our eye doctors at Nittany Eye Associates excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases. Call us at (814) 234-2015 or schedule an appointment online with one of our highly trained optometrists if you would like to learn more about a virus eye infection.  Be sure to visit Nittany Eye Associates where we always put the care of you and your family first at our convenient locations in State College, Matilda, Spring Mills, Tyrone, and Lock Haven PA areas.


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