Skip to content

Eye Health Center

Font Size

Your Eyes and Cornea Problems

What Conditions Can Damage the Cornea? continued...

Treatment usually includes antibiotic or antifungal eye drops. Sometimes, antiviral drugs and steroid eye drops are necessary.

Ocular Herpes (Herpes of the Eye)

Herpes is a viral infection of the eye, that may, like fever blisters, recur. The main cause of ocular herpes is the herpes simplex virus I (HSV I), the same virus that causes cold sores, but it can also result from the sexually transmitted herpes simplex virus II (HSV II) that causes genital herpes.

Ocular herpes produces sores on the surface of the cornea and, in time, the inflammation can spread deeper into the cornea and eye.

There is no cure for ocular herpes, but it can often be controlled with the use of antiviral drugs or steroid eye drops.

Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

Shingles is a recurrence of the chickenpox virus in people who have already had the disease. After a bout of chickenpox, this virus usually remains inactive within the nerves of the body. It can later travel down these nerves, infecting specific parts of the body, like the eye. Herpes zoster can cause lesions on the cornea. Corneal lesions usually heal by themselves, but antiviral treatment and/or topical steroid eye drops may reduce the inflammation.

Shingles can occur in anyone exposed to the chickenpox virus, but there is an increased risk in:

  • Older adults, especially over age 80
  • People with a weakened immune system

See your doctor if you have any symptoms of shingles. 

Corneal Degenerations

There are several types of corneal degenerations, diseases that can cause progressive structural problems with the cornea including:

  • Keratoconus

Keratoconus is a progressive disease in which the cornea thins and changes shape. Sometimes occurring as early as adolescence, this disease changes the curvature of the cornea, creating either mild or severe distortion, called astigmatism, and usually nearsightedness. Keratoconus may also result in swelling and scarring of the cornea and vision loss.

Factors associated with keratoconus include:

    • Genetics (a person can inherit a tendency for the condition from a parent)
    • Eye trauma (for example, from extensive rubbing of the eyes)
    • Eye diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa, retinopathy of prematurity, vernal keratoconjuncitivitis
    • Other diseases, like Down syndrome, osteogenesis imperfecta, Addison's disease, Leber's congenital amaurosis, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

At first, keratoconus can be corrected with glasses or soft contact lenses. But, as the disease progresses, you may need to wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses. In approximately 10% to 15% of patients with keratoconus, a corneal transplant may also be necessary.

During a corneal transplant, the damaged cornea is replaced with a donated cornea. This operation is successful in about nine out of 10 people with advanced keratoconus. Even after a transplant, you will still most likely need glasses or contact lenses to see clearly.

Today on WebMD

Woman holding tissue to reddened eye
Learn about causes, symptoms, and treatments.
eye
Simple annoyance or the sign of a problem?
 
red eyes
Symptoms, triggers, and treatments.
blue eye with contact lens
Tips for wearing and caring.
 
Understanding Stye
Article
human eye
Article
 
eye
Video
eye exam timing
Video
 
vision test
Tool
is vision correction surgery for you
Article
 
high tech contacts
Article
eye drop
Article
 

Special Sections