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Eye infections occur in different parts of the eye and can affect one eye or both. Bacteria, fungi, or viruses are the most common sources. They can originate from exposure to chemical, fumes, or smoke. Allergies also can cause infection as can an injury that may have caused the eye to become cut, punctured, or burned.
Eye Infection Symptoms
Typical symptoms for eye infections include redness, itching, and swelling. You may also experience any of the following:
- Pain in your eyes
- Constant feeling or sensation that something is in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Yellow, green, or watery discharge from your eye
- Constant redness of the eye or eyelids
- A gray or white sore on your eye’s iris
- Blurred or decreased vision
Eye Infection Treatment
You should seek out medical treatment if you experience any sign of an eye infection or change in vision. Your doctor can evaluate its severity and prescribe necessary treatment. Treatment depends on the cause of the infection and may include the following:
- Eye drops
What Is Conjunctivitis?
A common type of eye infection is conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye.
Pinkeye is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, which is the transparent mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and eye surface. When small blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed, they become more visible, which is what causes the whites of the eyes to appear reddish or pink. It often occurs among children and is highly contagious.
Pinkeye is caused either by a bacterial or viral infection, or even an allergic reaction, and can affect one or both eyes. Symptoms include redness, itchiness, tearing, and a discharge that forms a crust while you sleep. In most cases, viral pinkeye goes away without medical treatment in about seven to 10 days. If bacteria are the cause, it can be treated with an antibiotic eye drop or ointment.
BOTHERED BY DRY EYE SYNDROME?
While not related to infection, dry eye syndrome can become a chronic irritation that requires treatment, often of the at-home style—namely, eye drops that help moisten your eyes. But it also could be more serious. What causes dry eye syndrome, and is it curable? Read these posts for more:
There are steps you can take to reduce pain and irritation until your pinkeye heals. For instance, apply cold or warm compresses to the affected eye. (Make sure to use a different compress for each application to reduce the spread of the infection to the other eye or to another person.) Over-the-counter eye drops may help to relive symptoms. Also, if you’re a contact lens wearer, you should keep them out of your eyes until pinkeye symptoms have fully cleared.
You can reduce your risk by not sharing objects like washcloths or towels with someone who is infected and practicing good hand-washing hygiene. Also, note that pinkeye can become more serious if you have a weakened or impaired immune system, which lowers your body’s ability to fight infection, have vision in only one eye, and/or wear contact lens.
For further reading, see these University Health News posts:
- “How to Prevent Eye Strain from Computer Use: 6 Easy Tips“
- “Aging Eyes and Declining Eyesight: Eye Test Needs, Corrective Lenses, Lasik Eye Surgery, and More“
- “4 Strategies for Natural Dry Eye Treatment“
IDENTIFYING EYE INFECTIONS
The editors at Duke Medicine Health News answer a common question about eye infections.
Q: I’ve been suffering from red, watery, itchy eyes ever since I unpacked several cartons of old books. Is this an eye infection, and if so, what can I do about it?
A: First, it’s important not to self-treat your condition. Your eyes are too valuable to treat with home remedies. It’s important to consult a trained eye care professional in the event of eye infection. There are several types of eye infections, including viral, fungal, bacterial, and parasitic. Some, such as pinkeye, or conjunctivitis, and uveitis, can turn into chronic problems. Conjunctivitis is a relatively common eye infection, and spreads rapidly among people in close quarters, such as a classroom, or among a family or roommates. Symptoms of eye infection include swollen, itchy, red eyes, eye discharge, watery eyes, dry eyes, and light sensitivity. If you wear contact lenses and have any of these symptoms, remove the lenses and wear regular glasses until you can meet with your eye care professional.
Originally published in 2016, this post is regularly updated.
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