In approximately 10 to 20 percent of the people who have shingles. One of the parts of the body that these rashes appear is on face around and in the eye. This article discusses what shingles are, the causes, symptoms, pictures recovery, and prevention measures.
What is it and Causes
Also referred to as Herpes zoster, shingles refer to painful blisters that form on your body. One part of your body which stands a high risk of forming shingles is your eyes.
Just like chicken pox, shingles are caused by a virus referred to as varicella-zoster. If you have chicken pox at any point in your life, the virus causing the chicken pox is left behind even after you heal. It is this virus which is responsible for the formation of the shingles in your eyes.
When you get chicken pox from the virus varicella zoster, your immune system will fight the agent that causes chicken pox.
However, the virus finds a way to stick around your body. The virus is destroyed during treatment of chicken pox but not all of it.
Shingles virus lives in the nerves of your body. Mostly, the nerve is found in the dorsal root ganglion. The viruses are usually lying in your body in a non-active and dormant state.
Although your body’s immune system keeps the virus left in your body on check, it is possible that your immune system is compromised at some point in your life.
This can be either voluntarily or involuntary. The varicella-zoster takes advantage and multiplies.
The virus found along the ophthalmic nerve, the nerve which feeds the eye by supplying it with the nerve connection, multiplies once the immune system is weakened.
When the virus is reactivated along the optic nerve, the shingle rashes will form along the eye area. When the shingles form around the eye area, they are referred to as Herpes Zostes Opthalmicus.
Even when the virus is not actually in the optic nerve, you can still get shingles in the eye.
Sometimes, it gets to the eyes by contact from any other part of the body.
In most cases, the virus will attack the part of the eye referred to as the cornea. It is a very sensitive area of the eye which stands the highest risk of being affected by the viruses in the nerve.
The other parts of the eye that can be affected by the zoster virus are; the choroid, and iris, both of which form the uveal tissue.
Triggers of Shingles in the Eye
Below is a brief summary of the common triggers of shingles in the eye;
As you continue to grow older, your immune system continues to become weaker. If you have varicella zoster from shingles in the past, your chances of getting shingles increases as you advance in age.
Old people need to be very well taken care of so that there immune system stays strong enough for shingles not to erupt.
Another trigger for shingles is viral diseases such as HIV/AIDS. When you have a viral disease, your immune system is totally weakened and you are likely to get shingles. The shingles in the eye in such a case will always come back following treatment.
Stress increases the chances of getting shingles although indirectly. When you are stressed, your appetite levels drop greatly. This will definitely result to a weakened immune system since you are likely to skip your meals.
There are some medications that are too strong for your immune system to totally handle them. Such medications make you vulnerable to attacks such as those by shingles.
For that reason, if you are taking very strong medications that are probably making it difficult for you to eat; you should be monitored closely by your doctor.
Early & Late Symptoms
The symptoms in the early stages of shingles in the eye include;
- Tingling, or stabbing pain
- You are also likely to have itchiness on the skin around your eyes
- Burning sensation around your eyes also results from itchiness
- For children or teenagers, fever is also a common sign
- You are also likely to have extra light sensitivity
Late symptoms include the following;
- An itchy rash around the eye and on your forehead
- Painful blisters on the eye lids
- Eye lid may be paralyzed
- Numbness of the skin on the forehead
- Frequent Tearing and Watering of the eyes
- On rare occasion, you may have blurry vision
- Irritation and swelling of the eyelids
If you have blurred vision after treating shingles, it is advisable that you see your doctor. There is a possibility that there is an underlying condition which causes the blurry vision. The blisters that form around your eyes may change the color to yellow.
As mentioned above, blisters are one of the symptoms of shingles in the eye. At a later stage, these blisters may begin to ooze. This may lead to formation of scabs around the eye.
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should seek medical advice. This is necessary so that further symptoms and possibility of the shingles to other areas are prevented.
When not treated, shingles can result to Post Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN). This is the name given to the condition which results to severe nerve pain.
Your doctor may first give you a prescription consisting of steroid creams. These creams help soothe the swelling and itchiness of the red rash. You may also be given antiviral eye drops which keep the virus under control.
Corticosteroid eye drops manage pain and reduce the inflammation. Your doctor may also prescribe narcotic pain control drugs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to keep the pain caused by shingles under control.
You can also use home remedies for faster healing of the shingles. However, your doctor must first of all examine the condition and give you medication.
The home remedies are not an actual treatment for shingles. They help get rid of the symptoms while you are taking the prescribed medication.
Below are some of the home remedies that reduce the symptoms that come with shingles in the eye;
Apple cider vinegar (AVC)
The blisters that form around your eyes due to shingles can be disinfected and dried using apple cider vinegar.
When the blisters open up, they expose your skin to secondary infections such as bacterial and fungal infections.
Since AVC has antifungal and antibacterial properties, it prevents the secondary infections.
You can either drink or apply apple cider vinegar topically. When you drink apple cider vinegar, it lessens the pain resulting from shingles. Topical application on the other hand relieves you of the itchiness which results from the rash.
Drinking apple cider vinegar
- Add one table spoon of apple cider vinegar into an 8 ounce glass of water. You can use fruit juice in place of water.
- Shake the glass well to ensure an even solution is formed and drink it. You should repeat the procedure three times a day.
- Take cotton balls or gaze and soak them in apple cider vinegar
- Apply the ACV on the affected skin around the eye and leave it for about half an hour. You should never apply ACV on the eye ball.
The only possible side effect of using ACV is a burning sensation when you apply it on your skin. The burning lasts for about a minute or two.
Virgin coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil reduces the possibility of swelling and prevents the possibility of the shingles rash from spreading. It has anti-viral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Coconut oil also contains fatty acids which reduce inflammation externally and internally. You can apply coconut oil on your skin or drink it.
- Clean the area that has been affected and dry it completely
- Apply the oil on the skin around the eye using a clean cotton bud. Give it time to take effect
- You can also apply the oil using clean hands
- Drink a tablespoon of coconut oil every morning and later in the evening
- You should repeat the procedure daily for consistent immunity boost
The blisters and sores that form around your eye cause itching. Aloe vera has anti-itch, anti-inflammatory and healing properties. When applied on the skin, Aloe Vera relieves you of the itch caused by shingles.
Aloe vera also reduces swelling around your eyes and generally soothes your skin. It disinfects your skin and enhances faster healing of shingles.
- Take aloe vera leaves and squeeze out the juice. You need to extract about 5 teaspoons of Aloe vera
- Add 3 teaspoons of water to the Aloe vera juice. You could also add 3 teaspoons of coconut oil.
- Wash clean the area around your eye that has been affected. Using a clean piece of cotton, apply the mixture on the rash
- For excellent results, repeat the procedure two times a day.
Cold compress offers soothing and cooling effects to the irritated eye. When you have shingles in the eye your face and the area around your nose reddens. Cold compress soothes your eye and the surrounding skin.
- Take a clean towel, place some ice cubes in it and wrap them
- Press the towel on the area around the eye which is affected
- Hold the towel against the skin for about 20 minutes until it is numb
Balanced diet and hydration
Eating the right combinations of food is one great way to boost your immune system. Taking a balanced diet makes your body strong enough to fight shingles in the eye and the time taken before total healing is reduced.
You should also take sufficient amounts of water to make it easy for your body to drive out toxic substances. This enables your body’s immune system to naturally fight shingles.
Recovery time-How long does it last?
The length of time shingles take before healing depends on the severity of the condition, and whether or not you treat them. National Health Service estimates the period taken for shingles to completely disappear to be a week or two.
Is it contagious
Generally, shingles is contagious; that includes shingles in the eye. Even though shingles and chicken pox are caused by the same virus, chicken pox that results from herpes zoster is not contagious.
Shingles in the eye, when not well treated spreads from one person to another. In case you suspect that you have spread shingles in the eye to another person, the other person should always seek medical examination for verification.
Some of the prevention measures which will be discussed below will offer a guide on how to prevent spread.
How to prevent
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises that you can use the shingles vaccine to prevent shingles. It is mostly recommended if you 60 years of age or more. The US Food and Drug Administration also approves that it works for those aged 50 and above.
The vaccine reduces the risk of getting shingles by more than 50%. You should also avoid getting into direct contact with people who have never had chicken pox most especially at the time when you have blisters.
When you are vaccinated and end up getting the shingles anyway, they will not be as severe as they would be in a person who has not taken the vaccine. A vaccinated person will have the shingles heal very fast when treated.
Do not scratch itchy blisters or sores
Shingles can easily spread from one part of the body to another. To reduce the risk of their spread, you are advised not to scratch the sores or blisters that form around your eyes due to shingles.
Take a balanced diet
Getting shingles if you have had chicken pox before is very much dependent on the strength of your immune system. To prevent or reduces your chances of getting shingles, you should, maintain intake of a balanced diet. This keeps your immune system on check.
Maintain high hygiene levels
Since shingles are contagious, avoid sharing any personal items with people who are infected. Towels and clothes can easily transfer shingles from one person to another; they should never be shared until the infected person is completely healed.