We report a prevalence study of the best visual acuity in the affected eye of 100 selected patients with herpetic keratitis seen during a two-year period. Sixty-two patients retained an acuity of 6/9 or better without requiring penetrating keratoplasty (PK). The prevalence of reduced visual acuity severe enough to warrant PK was 33%. Patients requiring PK for whom full clinical records were available suffered a mean of 6.8 episodes of keratitis. In this group of patients the vision of 18 fell from 6/6 to 6/60 over a mean period of 8.5 years. Once visual acuity was permanently reduced to 6/12, 78% of patients proceeded to lose vision to 6/60. Unilateral visual impairment occurs in at least a third of patients with severe herpetic keratitis. Once vision falls permanently to 6/12, the long-term prognosis for vision appears to be poor.
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