Eyesight: ‘Gritty feeling’ in the eyes could signal a ‘serious’ condition – do not ignore

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According to the clinical services director of Specsavers, Giles Edmonds, redness and a “gritty feeling” in the eye could mean you have ocular herpes. This infection is usually caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which also causes cold sores. Speaking to Express.co.uk, Giles said: “Common symptoms of herpes simplex keratitis include redness around the front of the eye, pain, aching or a gritty feeling as well as sensitivity to bright light.

“It can also cause eyes to water, vision to become blurry and swelling.”

He urged people to seek medical help if they had any concerns about these symptoms.

“Depending on which part of the eye is affected you may be prescribed antiviral ointment or drops, steroid drops or anti-viral tablets,” he added.

The NHS describes the condition as a “potentially serious” type of eye infection.

It says: “Your vision could be at risk if it’s not treated.”

Ocular herpes usually occurs when a previous infection with the virus reactivates and spreads to the eye.

Most people are exposed to the herpes simplex virus as children but will not notice it as there are often no symptoms.

The virus will then remain inactive in the body.

But for some people, the virus can then be reactivated.

This could be caused by:

  • An illness or a high temperature
  • Exposure to strong sunlight or cold wind
  • An eye injury
  • Stress
  • Periods
  • Having a weakened immune system – for example, if you have chemotherapy.

The infection usually gets better within one or two weeks and does not cause any other problems if treated quickly.

However, one out of four cases are “more serious” and carry a “higher risk” of complications.

The NHS lists complications as:

Scarring of your cornea (the front of your eye) – this can cause permanent blurred vision and may require a cornea transplant.

A further eye infection caused by bacteria or fungi.

Glaucoma (where the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, becomes damaged).

Permanent vision loss – although the vast majority of people will not experience any significant loss of vision.

The NHS adds: “It’s also likely the infection will return at some point.

“Most people will experience more than one infection, with about one in five having a recurrence within a year.”

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