The Shingles vaccine is now recommended for everyone over 50 and it could save your eyesight. The majority of adults who get shingles are otherwise healthy and shingles that affects the eye usually occurs weeks after the initial onset of the disease.
In about 10 to 20 percent of people who do develop shingles, a rash appears in and around the eye. This type of shingles is called ophthalmic herpes zoster or herpes zoster ophthalmicus. This condition can be serious. If left untreated, the blisters on the eyelids or around the eye and resulting eye infection can lead to permanent vision problems by damaging the cornea, and in very rare cases, lead to blindness.
Symptoms of herpes zoster ophthalmicus include:
- Severe pain on one side of the face, in your scalp, or around your eyes
- Redness, rash, or sores on your eyelids and around the eyes, especially on the forehead
- A rash on the tip of your nose
- Eye redness
- A swollen or cloudy cornea
Shingles around the eye is not contagious because it is a reactivation of a dormant virus. At the time the herpes zoster or varicella zoster virus first infects the body causing chickenpox, the infection is contagious. The outbreak of shingles later in life is not a new infection, but the reappearance of the virus which has been dormant inside the body.
If you are 50 years or older, whether you have ever had chickenpox or not, be sure to ask your primary care physician about the shingles virus.