Shingles is a condition caused by the herpes zoster virus. Ocular shingles is a condition that occurs when the herpes virus infects the tissue of the eye. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of people who have shingles have ocular shingles. A recent study published by the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology shows that having ocular shingles may be linked to an increased risk of stroke.
Ocular shingles, which is also known as ocular herpes, eye shingles, or eye herpes, is a condition caused by the herpes zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chicken pox. Some cases of ocular shingles are minor while others are more serious and can cause swelling and scarring of the cornea which can result in blindness.
The cornea is the clear front cover of the eye. Light entering the eye passes through the cornea and is brought into focus by the cornea before it is passed to the lens and into the eye. In order to function correctly, the cornea must be completely clear. Scarring from a herpes infection can distort the cornea and cause loss of vision. Ocular herpes is sometimes referred to as a “cold sore” on the eye.
In addition to risks to vision, having ocular shingles may also be a sign of increased risk of having a stroke. Researchers at the Taipei Medical University in Taiwan studied 658 people who had ocular shingles and 1974 people who did not have shingles. The study showed that over 8 percent of the people who had been diagnosed with ocular shingles developed strokes during the one-year study, while only 1.7 percent of people without shingles developed strokes.
Researchers concluded that people with ocular shingles were four-and-a-half times more likely to have a stroke than people without shingles. They also concluded that the group that developed strokes was more likely to have ischemic stroke such as those caused by a blood clot and less likely to have a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.
Researchers also found that antiviral drugs used to treat ocular shingles did not have an effect on the likelihood of stroke.