PURPOSE: To analyze bilateral corneal immune cell and nerve alterations in patients with unilateral herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO) by laser in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM) and their correlation with corneal sensation and clinical findings. MATERIALS AND METHODS: This is a prospective, cross-sectional, controlled, single-center study. Twenty-four eyes of 24 HZO patients and their contralateral clinically unaffected eyes and normal controls (n = 24) were included. Laser IVCM (Heidelberg Retina Tomograph/Rostock Cornea Module), corneal esthesiometry (Cochet-Bonnet) were performed. Changes in corneal dendritiform cell (DC) density and morphology, number and length of subbasal nerve fibers and their correlation to corneal sensation, pain, lesion location, disease duration, and number of episodes were analyzed. RESULTS: HZO-affected and contralateral eyes showed a significant increase in DC influx of the central cornea as compared to controls (147.4 ± 33.9, 120.1 ± 21.2, and 23.0 ± 3.6 cells/mm2; p < 0.0001). In HZO eyes DCs were larger in area (319.4 ± 59.8 μm2; p < 0.001) and number of dendrites (3.5 ± 0.4 n/cell; p = 0.01) as compared to controls (52.2 ± 11.7, and 2.3 ± 0.5). DC density and size showed moderate negative correlation with total nerve length (R = -0.43 and R = -0.57, respectively; all p < 0.001). A higher frequency of nerve beading and activated DCs close to nerve fibers were detected specifically in pain patients. CONCLUSIONS: Chronic unilateral HZO causes significant bilateral increase in corneal DC density and decrease of the corneal subbasal nerves as compared to controls. Negative correlation was observed for DC density and size to nerve parameters, suggesting interplay between the immune and nervous systems. Patients with chronic pain also showed increased nerve beading and activated DCs.