[Question #5353] Herpes Transmission to the Eyes

21 months ago

Thanks for providing this service. It's so nice to be able to ask questions and get answers.


I'm wondering about how people's eyes become infected with herpes. My initial question is how a herpes infection is transferred to the eye?


If you had a herpes infection in your mouth or on your genitals, could you transfer the infection to your eye if you touched a sore and then unwittingly touched or rubbed your eye?


Could you transfer an infection from your mouth to your eye when brushing teeth if saliva and toothpaste was flying into the eye? If this is possible, would you have to have current outbreak in or around your mouth to transfer the infection to your eye? Or, could you transfer the infection without sores being present?


Could you get herpes in your eye from someone else who has oral herpes spitting directly into your eye during conversation or something? If this is possible, would they have to have sores present to transmit the infection? If you can't get herpes in your eye from someone spitting into your eye during conversation or some other similar scenario, would the person literally have to kiss or lick your eye to transmit the infection?

Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
21 months ago
Most ocular herpes happens when the cold sore virus travels along the top branch of the trigeminal nerve (that supplies both the mouth and the eye) without the infected person doing anything at all.  You don't get herpes in the eye from spit or saliva or toothbrushing.  Sometimes people could get herpes in their eye when they have brand new infection, even with genital infection, by touching the sores and then touching their eye.  But once an infection is well established, it is EXTREMELY unusual that they would then get that same type of virus in the eye.  Is that helpful?

Terri
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21 months ago

Thanks for the information! It is very helpful.

If someone with a brand new herpes infection could transfer it from one part of their body to another, could you contract herpes from someone if they touched a sore and then touched you, like when shaking hands or through some other instance of casual contact?

Or, is the reason someone with a brand new infection could potentially transfer the same type of virus to another area of their body, say mouth to eye or genitals to mouth, because during a brand new infection their immune system is weakened and less capable of fending off the location transfer?

Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
21 months ago
No, herpes is not transmitted via casual contact like the ones that you describe.  Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection
What you are describing is know as autoinoculation and yes, we believe that when it happens, and that is really uncommon, it happens before the body has had a chance to mount a substantial immune response.
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