This is a re-outbreak of chicken pox.  When people get chickenpox as a child, the viral infection can hit large parts of the body. The body’s immune system fights back and eradicates the virus. However, the virus is not completely gone, but usually sits dormant in the base of the nerves in the spine and head. Later in life, as the immune system slows down, the virus can reactivate and run back out the nerve and affect the skin.  This outbreak is called “shingles” or “zoster”  and it usually affects a single dermatome (strip of skin) in the body.  If the fifth cranial nerve of the head (called the trigeminal nerve) is affected, the shingles outbreak can occur on the face.  Often the forehead and scalp are involved with painful lesions and swelling of the skin.  If the eye is affected this can lead to corneal scaring and long-term vision problems.  We usually treat a shingles outbreak with an antiviral medication like Valtrex or acyclovir. If these medications are started within three days of initial symptoms, the medications have been found to limit duration of illness and decrease the chance of long-term sensation/pain problems. It’s important to see an eye doctor if there is any eye redness or change in vision as the eye may require treatment as well.

Dr. Timothy Root is a practicing ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon in Daytona Beach, Florida. His books, video lectures, and training resources can be found at:


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