• How Sexual Activity Can Affect Your Vision

    Reviewed By: Laurie Gray Barber MD
    Mar. 02, 2018

    Positive sexual choices have well-documented benefits for health and happiness. But did you know that sexual activity can affect your eyes and vision? Be safe, or you could go blind from doing that.

    If you’re sexually active, you should be aware of how sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) are spread. But you may not know that many STDs can also harm your eyes and vision. You can reduce your risk of getting an STD by educating yourself, talking to your partners and practicing safer sex. If you have or have had an STD, talk to your partners about safer sex.

    Herpes and the Eyes

    There are two types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Type I causes cold sores or fever blisters. Nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population has been exposed to Type I herpes at some point in their life. Type II HSV causes genital herpes.

    Either type of herpes can show up anywhere on the body. And either type can cause a serious infection in the eye—or blind you. A herpes infection in the eye can permanently scar the cornea or nasolacrimal (tear) duct. HSV is also known to cause inflammation of the retina which can lead to scarring, retinal detachments and blindness.

    Both types of the herpes virus are passed on by skin-to-skin contact. Herpes gets into the eye either through direct facial contact with a herpes sore, or when you touch your eyes after touching a sore. Protect yourself by using condoms and dental dams and washing your hands thoroughly. If your partner is having an active outbreak, do not touch the sores.

    Syphilis and the Eyes

    Syphilis is an STD that usually causes sores and rashes. It can have much more serious—even deadly—effects on the body if not treated. Thankfully, syphilis can be cured with antibiotics in the early stages. However, damage that’s done to the body before treatment often can’t be reversed.

    When syphilis affects the eyes, it can cause inflammation of the conjunctiva, cornea, uvea (inner coat of the eye), episclera (outer coat of the eye), optic nerve and retina. Any of these can cause serious, long-lasting problems for your vision, like blurriness, pain and dryness.

    Syphilis affects the whole body once you are infected. You don’t have to get anything in your eye—syphilis will travel through your bloodstream. When condoms are used correctly, they can often protect against syphilis. However, any syphilis sores that are not covered by the condom will still be contagious.

    Gonorrhea and the Eyes

    Gonorrhea can infect the genitals, anus, throat and eyes. It is usually spread by partners with few or no symptoms. Gonorrhea can be treated with medication, but in recent years some strains have become resistant to the medications used most often.

    When gonorrhea infects the eyes, it can cause a form of pink eye with a large amount of pus discharged from the eyes. Gonorrhea can be passed from a mother to her child during child birth.

    A person gets gonorrhea in the eyes through direct contact with body fluids during or after sex, by touching their eyes during or after sex, or during child birth.Condoms and safer sex can prevent most gonorrhea infections.

    Venereal Warts and the Eyes

    Venereal warts (condylomata acuminata) are a viral infection that’s passed on by direct contact with wart tissue. The warts can show up on the eyelids, mouth, or genital or anal mucous membranes. In the eye, venereal warts can cause skin-colored bumps and long-term irritation of the surface of the eye.

    The virus that causes venereal warts is one of several variants of human papilloma virus (HPV). Venereal warts can affect the eyes after direct contact between the eyes and warts, or by touching the eyes after touching the warts. Safer sex and good hand washing can reduce the risk.

    HIV/AIDS and the Eyes

    The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can cause hemorrhages and strokes in the retina. Having HIV or AIDS can also open the door for a more serious retinal infection from a virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV infection can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. AIDS can also cause a cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma that can appear on the eyelids or conjunctiva. HIV infection can also make it easier for a person to get serious infections from other STDs. 

    Condoms and safer sex can reduce your risk of contracting HIV. Once a person has HIV or AIDS it can affect their eyes by traveling through the blood and body tissue.

    Pubic Lice and the Eyes

    Pubic lice, commonly known as "crabs," are a six-legged parasite most often found in the pubic hair. They’re a different species than the lice usually found on top of the head. However, pubic lice can show up on any hairy part of the body, including the eyebrows and eyelashes. The parasite attaches to the hair and then injects its saliva into the skin. This causes long-term itching and burning sensations in the skin.

    Lice infestations are treatable and lice do not transmit any other diseases.