How to identify symptoms of shingles around the eye

Updated July 20, 2017

Eye shingles is an infection caused by the virus that causes chickenpox (varicella-zoster). One or more nerves and the skin over them are affected. Typically, the disorder causes a painful blistering rash. Eye shingle virus can spread around the forehead area or cheek to the upper or lower eyelids. Here are some of the symptoms of eye shingles.

Monitor shingles that form on the face, forehead or cheeks. The rash can spread to the upper or lower eyelids.

Notice the pain you feel around your eye. Usually, shingles causes abnormal sensations in the affected part of the body a few days before the rash appears. The abnormal sensations include deep pain, itching, numbness, and extreme sensitivity to touch.

Examine your eye for a rash. Typically, the rash begins with clusters of red bumps. Within about a day, the bumps usually turn into small, fluid-filled blisters. The skin around the blisters is usually red. The blisters continue to be painful, particularly when touched.

Look at the appearance of your eye. The eye may become red, swollen, painful, and very sensitive to light. Also, it may water easily. Blurred vision may also occur.

Check your eye for scratches. Small scratches or scarring of the cornea can occur with eye shingles. The scratches on the cornea may increase the risk of bacterial infection in the eye. It can also affect the optic nerve or the retina. The rash usually clears up in a week or two.


Compresses and pain relievers are usually recommended by doctors to treat eye shingles. Lubricating eye drops or antibiotic eye drops may also be prescribed.

Pain is treated with pain relievers (analgesics). If pain is severe, opioids may be needed.

Early diagnosis and treatment is important to minimise the symptoms and reduce the risk of complications that may compromise vision.

Antiviral drugs taken by mouth also help when an eye is affected. If the drug is used promptly, eye damage may be less severe. In addition, corticosteroid eye drops sometimes help.


Shingles in the eye is very dangerous. Scar tissue may form on the eye. Occasionally, the eye is permanently damaged, and vision is lost.

By its very nature, eye shingles are prone to return from time to time, especially when the immune system is weakened. Eye shingles can be contagious.

Things You'll Need

  • antibiotics
  • eye drops
  • doctor
  • antiviral drugs
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