Herpetic eye disease study: lessons learned

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Purpose of review

Ophthalmic herpes simplex virus (HSV) of the anterior segment is responsible for a range of corneal complications such as scarring, thinning, neovascularization, and severe loss of vision. This review provides current guidelines for treating anterior segment disease related to HSV.

Recent findings

We first review findings from the Herpetic Eye Disease Study (HEDS) clinical trials, and then review new topical and antiviral therapies developed since the HEDS studies. The development of vaccines to prevent recurrent episodes of herpetic infection is briefly reviewed. New corneal surgical procedures, developed since HEDS, may put patients at risk for ocular HSV disease: cross-linking and excimer refractive surgery.


HEDS established the standard of HSV ocular therapy and is still valid today. However, newer antivirals may provide easier compliance with improved bioavailability, efficacy, dosage, and tolerability. Further research is needed to prevent latency of HSV, decrease recurrences, and more effectively treat necrotizing keratitis associated with HSV.

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