Herpes zoster frequently involves the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve. It presents with malaise, fever, headache, and periorbital burning and itching. These symptoms may precede the eruption by a day or more. The rash is initially vesicular, quickly becoming pustular and then crusting. Involvement of the tip of the nose or the lid margin predicts involvement of the eye (eFigure 7–25). Ocular signs include conjunctivitis, keratitis, episcleritis, and anterior uveitis, often with elevated intraocular pressure. Recurrent anterior segment inflammation, neurotrophic keratitis, and posterior subcapsular cataract are long-term complications. Optic neuropathy, cranial nerve palsies, acute retinal necrosis, and cerebral angiitis occur infrequently. HIV infection is an important risk factor for herpes zoster ophthalmicus and increases the likelihood of complications.
High-dose oral acyclovir (800 mg five times a day), valacyclovir (1 g three times a day), or famciclovir (500 mg three times a day) for 7–10 days started within 72 hours after the appearance of the rash reduces the incidence of ocular complications but not of postherpetic neuralgia. Acute keratitis, or a “pseudo-dendrite,” can be treated with a topical antiviral such as ganciclovir 0.15% gel, 1 drop five times daily until healing has occurred and then 1 drop three times daily for 1 more week. Anterior uveitis requires additional treatment with topical corticosteroids and cycloplegics. Topical corticosteroids, which promote viral replication, may have to be delayed until the keratitis has resolved. Neurotrophic keratitis is an important cause of long-term morbidity. The role for long-term suppressive oral antiviral therapy in the setting of recurrent zoster eye disease is being studied.
Any patient with herpes zoster ophthalmicus and ocular symptoms or signs should be referred urgently to an ophthalmologist.