By Eyecare NGIntroduction | Signs | Types | Prevention | Treatment
Eye infections occur when harmful microorganisms (germs) such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa get into the structures of the eyes, multiply and cause damage. Almost all structures of the eye can get infected but the external structures such as the eyelids, conjunctiva and cornea are mostly affected.
Infections by different microorganisms may present the same way. For proper diagnosis and treatment, it may be necessary to carry out laboratory investigation to identify the particular organism causing the infection.
Signs and symptoms of eye infections
The following are common signs and symptoms of eye infections:
- Blurry vision
- Tearing and eye discharge
- Burning sensation
- Light sensitivity
- Gritty sensation
- Swollen eyes
Types of eye infections
There are many eye infections and they are usually classified according to the structures of the eye affected. These may be further broken down according to the microorganisms causing the infections. Some eye infections are listed below. Click on the plus (+) sign beside each infection to read more
Prevention of eye infections requires maintaining good hand and eye hygiene as well as getting the infection treated properly to avoid spread and reoccurrence.
- Always wash your hands with soap and running water. Wash before and after touching your face, before and after putting on contact lenses, as well as after contact with an infected person or contaminated materials.
- Don’t share towels and beddings.
- Do not share eye makeup.
- Do not use makeup products longer than recommended or past their expiry date (whichever comes first).
- Don’t share eye drops or ointments
- Clean eye discharges with disposable wipes and cotton wool and dispose them properly. Avoid using handkerchiefs, face towels or any other reusable materials to clean eye discharges.
- Use your contact lenses as recommended by your eye doctor. Ensure that you adhere to the usage, handling, storage and replacement guidelines and schedule. Handle them with clean hands and avoid sleeping or swimming with them.
Treatment of eye infections
Treatment of eye infections is targeted at the causative organism. Some may clear up on their own without treatment, while others require medications. Sometimes a laboratory test which involves culture and sensitivity test may be needed to identify the causative organism.
Generally, broad-spectrum antibiotic eye drops, ointments and tablets are used to treat common bacterial infections. Serious infections like orbital cellulitis and preseptal cellulitis may require intravenous antibiotics. However, bacterial infections like stye may respond to home remedies like warm compress and therefore resolve on its own without medications.
Most viral infections (except those caused by Herpes Simplex) are self-limiting and do not require medications. Common recommendations for treatment are cold compress for symptom relief and Vitamin C to boost the immune system. In serious cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or treat suspected secondary bacterial infections. If the cornea is affected, anti-inflammatory drops like steroids may be carefully introduced to treat the resulting inflammation (keratitis).
It is important to consult your eye doctor whenever you have an eye infection to ensure that the infection is diagnosed accurately and that appropriate treatment is given.
Avoid patronizing quacks, self-medicating or instilling substances such as breast milk, urine, herbs, sugar water or salt water into your eyes to treat eye infections. These practices increase your risk of developing severe sight-threatening infections.