Clinical Features of Pediatric Age Herpes Simplex Virus Keratitis

Cornea. 2023 Sep 1;42(9):1099-1103. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0000000000003264. Epub 2023 Mar 7.


Purpose: The objective of this study is to evaluate the clinical features of pediatric herpes simplex virus keratitis, its recurrence rates, and its effects on visual acuity.

Methods: In this retrospective case series, records of pediatric patients (0-16 years) who presented with herpes simplex virus keratitis between January 2012 and September 2021 were evaluated. Data including age, gender, additional systemic diseases, the number of recurrences, recurrence time, treatment protocol, follow-up period, and presence of amblyopia were reviewed.

Results: Twenty-four patients (16 females and 8 males) with a mean age of 6.6 ± 4 (1.1-15) years were included in the study. The mean follow-up time was 21 ± 19.9 (7-94) months. Four patients (16.6%) had bilateral keratitis. Including all 4 patients with bilateral involvement, a total of 10 (41.6%) patients had additional systemic diseases that cause immunodeficiency. After prophylactic antiviral treatment for at least 6 months (except for isolated epithelial keratitis), recurrence was detected in 5 (22.7%) patients, who were all immunodeficient. Among immunodeficient individuals, the recurrence rate was found to be 50%. Keratitis recurrence was significantly associated with immunodeficiency ( P = 0.03). However, type of keratitis ( P = 0.42), gender ( P = 0.47), and bilaterality ( P = 0.54) were not related with recurrence. 66.7% of the patients younger than 10 years developed amblyopia during follow-up.

Conclusions: In childhood, the most frequent corneal manifestation of herpes simplex virus is stromal keratitis that mostly progresses with corneal scarring, residual astigmatism, and amblyopia. The recurrence rate increases in the presence of immunosuppression. Close follow-up, rapid diagnosis, and treatment are critical for battling against amblyopia and achieving good visual prognosis.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use
  • Amblyopia*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratitis, Herpetic* / diagnosis
  • Keratitis, Herpetic* / drug therapy
  • Keratitis, Herpetic* / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Simplexvirus


  • Acyclovir
  • Antiviral Agents