Prognostic value of Hutchinson's sign in acute herpes zoster ophthalmicus

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2003 Mar;241(3):187-91. doi: 10.1007/s00417-002-0609-1. Epub 2003 Feb 11.


Purpose: To determine the prognostic value of nasociliary skin lesions (Hutchinson's sign) for ocular inflammation and corneal sensory denervation in acute herpes zoster ophthalmicus.

Methods: A longitudinal observational study with a 2-month follow-up was performed involving 83 non-immunocompromised adults with acute herpes zoster ophthalmicus, with a skin rash duration of less than 7 days, referred by their general practitioner. All skin lesions at the tip, the side and the root of the nose, representing the dermatomes of the external nasal and infratrochlear branches of the nasociliary nerve, were documented by taking photographs and marking anatomical drawings. Ocular inflammatory signs were observed by slit-lamp biomicroscopy, and corneal sensitivity was measured with the Cochet-Bonnet esthesiometer at 2-month follow-up.

Results: Hutchinson's sign was a powerful predictor of ocular inflammation and corneal denervation in herpes zoster ophthalmicus [relative risks: 3.35 (CI 95%: 1.82-6.15) and 4.02 (CI 95%:1.55-10.42), respectively]. The manifestation of herpes zoster skin lesions at the dermatomes of both nasociliary branches was invariably associated with the development of ocular inflammation.

Conclusion: Clinicians should be alert for early skin lesions within the complete nasociliary dermatome, because they are a reliable prognostic sign of sight-threatening ocular complications in acute herpes zoster ophthalmicus.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cornea / innervation
  • Cranial Nerve Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cranial Nerve Diseases / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / diagnosis*
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypesthesia / diagnosis*
  • Hypesthesia / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Neuralgia / diagnosis*
  • Neuralgia / drug therapy
  • Neurons, Afferent / virology
  • Ophthalmic Nerve / virology
  • Prognosis
  • Skin / innervation
  • Skin Diseases, Viral / diagnosis*
  • Skin Diseases, Viral / drug therapy


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Acyclovir