Types of Viral Eye Infection

Viral infections in the eye may cause your eyes to feel uncomfortable, and some infections may result in blurry vision. Depending on the location and type of infection, your eye doctor may not have a medication to cure your eye infection. In many cases, the doctor will give you a drop to reduce discomfort from your symptoms. Knowing the different types of viral eye infections may help you prevent the infection or detect symptoms early.

Viral eye infections will cause redness and irritation. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Viral Conjunctivitis

The conjunctiva is the clear tissue that covers the white of your eye and lines the underside of your eyelids, and a virus may cause an infection in this tissue. The infection, known as viral conjunctivitis or "pink eye," will cause the white of the eye to appear red. The virus will often cause itching, irritation and discharge from the eye. You may have swollen eyelids and experience light sensitivity.

Viral conjunctivitis typically results from the common cold, and the eye infection easily spreads from one person to another. You should always avoid touching your eyes, and this may help prevent the eye infection. An eye doctor will not usually prescribe eye drops to treat viral conjunctivitis, and may recommend allowing the virus to resolve on its own. In severe cases, the doctor may prescribe a steroid eye drop to help relieve symptoms.

Ocular Herpes

The herpes simplex virus, well-known for causing cold sores on the face, can also cause a viral eye infection. In most cases of ocular herpes, the virus will infect the cornea, the clear front window of your eye. This will usually result in redness, discomfort, light sensitivity and vision changes. If the infection occurs deep in the layers of the cornea, you might have scarring, and this could cause permanent damage to your vision.

Doctors have limited treatment options for this type of viral infection. She may prescribe an antiviral eye drop if the infection is in the top layers of your cornea. If the infection runs deep in the cornea, your eye doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops to reduce the amount of inflammation in the cornea, which may also reduce the scarring to your cornea. Prolonged inflammation and severe scarring may lead to a corneal transplant.

Corneal Ulcer

An open wound on your cornea, called a corneal ulcer, may result from a virus or from a complication from ocular herpes. The open wound may also stem from an injury to your eye, and a virus could infect the ulcer. Symptoms include pain, irritation, light sensitivity and excessive tearing. If you look in a mirror, you may notice a white, foggy area on the cornea, and this may indicate an ulcer.

Your eye doctor will typically prescribe an eye drop to help treat the cause of the ulcer. For comfort, she may also recommend that you wear a special contact lens, called a bandage lens, to cover the open ulcer. This may reduce discomfort and aid in healing.

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