At Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons we are all too aware of just how delicate and sensitive the eyes can be. Most of our patients are familiar with the most common issues that affect vision, like refractive errors (such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism) or chronic dry eye. Some have even been affected by more serious conditions that can potentially cause permanent vision loss, like cataracts, glaucoma, retinopathy, and macular degeneration. However, few realize that the eyes can also be adversely affected by diseases that seem to have nothing to do with them, like, for example, shingles. When Janice had moved to Georgia back in 2011, one of her eyes had already been damaged during her own bout with shingles, and she came to Dr. William Segal for help.
“When I first went to Dr. William Segal, my vision was very bad and my eye hurt constantly,” Janice said. “He and his staff were very thorough, and spent a great deal of time analyzing my eye with all their many examining machines. On average, I saw him about once every three weeks and I felt like they were doing so much to help alleviate my erratic symptoms.”
The shingles virus, known as herpes zoster, is a form of the chicken pox virus that remains inactive deep inside the roots of the nerves. In some individuals, the virus can reactivate later in the patient’s life and spread up the nerves to the skin, where it manifests as a red, blistering rash, usually accompanied by deep, penetrating pain from the nerve endings. Because there are nerve endings across the entire skin surface, herpes zoster can potentially flare up anywhere on the body, and if the forehead, temple, scalp or nose becomes infected, the eye may become infected as well, leading to serious ramifications.
“A year ago I felt like perhaps a cornea transplant might be worth a try,” explained Janice. “I went to downtown Atlanta to Emory for a second opinion and saw a well-recognized eye surgeon to discuss a transplant. He said he agreed with all the treatments Dr. Segal had performed on me, but that that a cornea transplant would not solve all my problems. I was disappointed, but felt that the cornea transplant was not my answer.”
Herpes zoster can potentially lead to a number of vision problems. The blisters and sores can easily become infected, and that infection can spread to the eye, causing pain, redness, light sensitivity, and eyelid swelling. A serious infection can also cause the cornea (the clear layer in front of the iris and pupil) to become swollen, severely damaged, and scarred. In some cases, this can cause damage to the lens of the eye, resulting in cataracts. In other cases, inflammation can cause the pressure of the fluids inside the eye can increase to the point that it begins to damage the optic nerve, which may result in glaucoma, a serious condition which can result in permanent vision loss.
After deciding not to undergo a cornea transplant, Janice went back to Dr. Segal and he started working on other options. “Gradually, my eye actually started getting better!” she said. “He performed laser cataract surgery to remove some of the buildup on the lens of my eye and fitted me for a soft corrective contact lens. The results have been nothing short of amazing. For the first time in more than six years, my eye does not hurt and my vision is much clearer. I am so happy with my vision and my lack of pain!”
If you are currently a patient of Dr. William Segal or Dr. Marc Lay and, like Janice, would be interested in sharing your experience, or if you are a new patient with questions about the health of your eyes and the procedures that we perform, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more patient stories and tips for healthy eyes.