Neurological and Ophthalmological Manifestations of Varicella Zoster Virus

Sachin Kedar, Lakshman N. Jayagopal, Joseph R. Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background:Approximately 1 million new cases of herpes zoster (HZ) occur in the United States annually, including 10%-20% with herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO). Postherpetic neuralgia, a debilitating pain syndrome occurs in 30% HZ, whereas 50% HZO develop ophthalmic complications. Diplopia from cranial nerve palsy occurs in less than 30% HZO, whereas optic neuropathy is seen in less than 1% HZO. We reviewed recent developments in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of HZ as well as neurological and ophthalmological complications of relevance to the neuro-ophthalmologist.Evidence Acquisition:We searched the English language literature on Pubmed and Google scholar for articles relevant to the various sections of this review.Results:Antiviral treatment should be initiated within 48-72 hours of onset of HZ and HZO to decrease pain and reduce complications. We recommend neuroimaging in all patients with neuro-ophthalmic manifestations such as diplopia and acute vision loss. Diagnostic confirmation using polymerase chain reaction and serology on paired serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples should be obtained in those with neurological signs and symptoms or abnormal imaging. Patients with neurological and/or retinal varicella zoster virus (VZV) infection should be treated promptly with intravenous acyclovir. Patients with isolated optic neuropathy or cranial nerve palsy can be managed with oral antivirals. The prognosis for visual recovery is good for patients with isolated optic neuropathy and excellent for patients with isolated ocular motor cranial nerve palsy.Conclusions:HZ produces a spectrum of potentially blinding and life-threatening complications that adversely affect quality of life and increase health care costs. Individuals at risk for HZ, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, should be encouraged to receive the highly effective VZV vaccine to prevent HZ and its complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-231
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuro-Ophthalmology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Clinical Neurology


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