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  • How easy is it to spread genital herpes to the eyes?


    How easy is it to spread genital herpes to the eyes? I accidentally touched a sore and then my eye without rinsing first, and I have been panicking since. The only symptoms I have had is some eye pain. No red eye, discharge, or blurred vision. What are the chances this happened? I have an annual eye exam in early October. Am I fine to wait to express concerns?


    The chance of transmitting the herpes simplex virus (HSV) from physical contact with an active flare-up in one site of the body to infect another site of the body is very low.

    After someone has been first infected with HSV, called the primary infection, the body creates an immune response against the virus that prevents another primary infection at another site. Antibodies against the virus are found circulating in the blood years after the initial infection. Even after the primary infection is treated, the virus itself is not gone. It stays in a latent state within the nerve supplying the area of the body where the primary infection occurred.

    Thus, reactivations are usually in the same part of the body. Sometimes, reactivations of the virus occur in a different region, but are still supplied by the same nerve (for example patients with a history of cold sores around their lips get a reactivation in their eye).

    In any case, while it is difficult to externally transmit the herpes virus from one place in your body to another, one can easily transmit the virus to another person so appropriate precautions must be followed. Even if someone already has one strain of the virus, they can again be infected with another strain and thus can have both genital and oral herpes.

    Although unlikely, they only way to know if you did spread the virus would be to see your ophthalmologist sooner.

    This question was originally answered on Aug. 10, 2017.

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