Eye sores: causes, treatment and home remedies

Eye sores: causes, treatment and home remedies

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Eye Herpes - The Unknown Danger

Everyone knows the uncomfortable blisters on the lips, and many only think of them when they hear the word herpes. However, herpes on the eye is almost unknown, which also manifests itself in completely different symptoms. So herpes is not an independent disease.


With cold sores, there are no blisters, but one eye is red or itchy. It is not a cosmetic problem: the inflammation of the eyes can penetrate the cornea and, in an emergency, trigger visual disturbances or even blindness. Therefore, you should definitely go to the ophthalmologist.

Those affected feel as if they have a foreign body in their eye. The conjunctiva wets and is glued in the morning.

There is also a feeling of weakness, headache, sensitivity to light, fever and malaise.

Delayed herpes from the mouth

Herpes in the mouth is usually herpes in the mouth that the sufferers drag into the eyes. This happens quickly, for example, if we scratch the infected lips and then rub our eyes with the same finger.

Since herpes spreads mainly in the mouth area, a disease in the eyes is relatively rare.


The infection is easy to treat and heals quickly with the right medication. If left untreated, the inflammation can severely and permanently damage eyesight; the herpes virus then destroys deeper layers in the eye.


Herpes is easily confused. A parasite - the Akanthamöbe - eats through the cornea and migrates to the spinal cord. Every year, around 200 people in Germany become infected with this pathogen, often from neglected contact lenses. The symptoms, red and itchy eyes, are similar.

Doctors often confuse eye sores with other infections, be it bacteria or fungi. Then they prescribe an antibiotic and consider the disease to have healed if the symptoms go away after a few days. However, the herpes viruses remain in the organism and can even penetrate the brain via the nerve pathways.

One affected person writes: “I have had eye sores since I was six years old, and I am now 29 years old. Up to the age of 25, no doctor could tell me what I really had. I have been to all doctors, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, general practitioners etc., and allergy tests have also shown nothing. Neither did I know anyone who suffered from the same illness until I came to an ophthalmologist whose daughter had exactly the same symptoms. Now I finally knew how to prevent eye sores and which ointment to use to avoid spreading all over my face. ”

Why is early diagnosis important?

The herpes viruses multiply first in the conjunctiva. If they are not fought early, they spread into the cornea. This leads to scars, cloudiness and sometimes blindness. In the worst case, only a corneal transplant will help.

The virus very rarely infects the choroid between the retina and the eyeball. If this region fails, the retina is no longer supplied - this means blindness.

Rarely does a hole appear in the retina, which allows bacteria to penetrate and trigger greens and cataracts.

The viruses stay in the body

If the initial infestation was severe, the virus often reactivates later and another illness is usually worse. Herpes viruses “dormant” in the nerve cells can reactivate at any time if the affected person's immune system weakens. A flu infection or a long stay in the sun is enough.

Once the viruses are in the body, they can no longer be completely removed. That is why it is necessary to prevent the virus from multiplying, especially with an initial infection.

A virustatic with aciclovir is used for this. This substance is also available as an eye drop, but systemic use is more effective. However, trifluridine, which also helps against eye herpes, is only administered in drop form.

Additional infections

Herpes in the eye can lead to further illnesses, namely if sores form from the herpes, into which bacteria can penetrate. Antibiotics help against this.

What can affected people do?

With eye and lip herpes, those affected should avoid stress and sunlight. Cooling the eye relieves the symptoms. You can put cold packs in the freezer, wrap them in a cloth and put them on the inflamed eye.

Attention: Never use prescription eye drops on your own. This is because they restrict the supply of fluid to the eye and thus worsen the symptoms.

Herpes infections cannot be treated by yourself.

The risk of infection is low, but those affected should prevent their roommates from being infected. Wash your clothes with disinfectant detergent and do not use towels or washcloths together.

Kisses on the eyes of their partners should be avoided during the period of acute infection.

Almost everyone carries the virus

The herpes virus is widespread, and most of those affected take it on in childhood, mostly through adult lip contact. However, only a few break out of the disease.


Prevention for herpes means hygiene first: 90% of all people carry the virus, and the primary aim is to avoid an outbreak. The best way to do this is to strengthen your immune system, i.e. eat a healthy diet, sleep enough and avoid excessive stress.

Be careful not to spread an acute infection on the lips, nose, or other parts of the body to the eyes. So wash your hands before rubbing your eyes if you previously touched the affected areas. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Merck & Co., Inc .: Herpes simplex keratitis (accessed: Aug 7, 2019), msdmanuals.com
  • Amboss GmbH: Keratitis (access: 07.08.2019), amboss.com
  • Professional association of ophthalmologists in Germany / German Ophthalmological Society e.V .: Keratitis guideline, as of August 2011, dog.org
  • American Academy of Ophthalmology: Herpes Keratitis (accessed: August 7, 2019), aao.org
  • Harvard Health Publishing: Herpes infection of the cornea (accessed: 07.08.2019), health.harvard.edu
  • National Health Service UK: Herpes simplex eye infections (accessed: 07.08.2019), nhs.uk
  • Grehn, Franz: Ophthalmology, Springer, 31st edition, 2009
  • Mehrle, Georg: Ophthalmology: for nursing and healthcare professions, Urban & Fischer, 8th edition, 2012

ICD codes for this disease: B00, H19ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

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