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May 30, 2022 8 min read

Taking care of your eyes should be part of your health care and should be a priority. Most of us have had an eye infection at some point in our lives, and the experience was painful, maybe even unsightly. Eye infections can affect your day-to-day life, leading to permanent damage in severe cases. There are multiple ways you can alleviate the symptoms, including using dry eye masks.

This page will help you know when you have an eye infection, what to expect, and what you should do to remedy the situation. Read on as we talk more about some of the most common eye infections and highlight how they can be treated.


10 Common Signs Of An Eye Infection

There are multiple reasons why an eye infection can occur. It doesn’t hurt to be well acquainted with the signs so that you are well prepared in case of an emergency. There are a few signs you can look out for in case of an infection. Let’s highlight some of them:


  • A feeling that there is a foreign object moving around or stuck in your eye
  • Discharge from the eye. It can be bloody, watery, green, or yellow
  • Your vision can either be blurred, or it can noticeably decrease
  • Pain and discomfort in the eye area
  • An excessive case of redness in the eyes
  • A sore on your iris
  • An inexplicable fever with no other cause
  • Photosensitivity or photophobia
  • Excessively watery eyes
  • Burning sensation in your eyes


Types Of Eye Infections

Eye infections are typically divided into three distinct categories, and these are:

  • Fungal eye infections
  • Bacterial eye infections
  • Viral eye infections


Each of these has its own treatments. Inflammation in or around the eye area can compromise your eye health and give you complications that include dry eyes.

Dry eyes caused by conditions that include Blepharitis can be remedied by using a dry eye mask. Dry eye masks are comfortable to use, and they help relieve symptoms that come with eye infections.

Let’s talk about some of the most common eye infections:


— Keratitis

This type of eye infection involves the inflammation of the cornea. The inflammation can happen as a result of exposure to bacteria, viruses, or parasites in water. Keratitis is a fairly widespread problem for individuals who wear contact lenses. Keratitis can cause redness of the eyes, blurred vision, and pain in the eye area.


— Stye (sty)

Stye causes the formation of bumps that usually feel like painful pimples. The painful, red bumps form in one of two places; they can pop up right under the eyelid or at the roots of the eyelashes. Stye is not contagious, and it is triggered by a bacterial infection of the oil glands in the eyelid or eyelashes. Symptoms can include pain, itchiness, and redness.


— Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) 

Pink eye is triggered when the conjunctiva is infected either by bacteria (bacterial conjunctivitis) or a virus. Pinkeye is primarily a result of adenovirus in adults, but it can also occur due to the herpes simplex virus and other viruses. The virus that causes Coronavirus disease can also cause pinkeye. Allergies can also cause conjunctivitis (allergic conjunctivitis), which is not contagious.

Pinkeye typically causes itchiness in the eyes coupled with discharge that usually causes crusting when you go to sleep. Sometimes opening the eyes in the morning will be difficult because of the crusty buildup. Pinkeye also causes redness in the eyes and excessive tearing. Swelling causes blood vessels to “pop” or become more visible, explaining the redness.

Newborns are especially susceptible to eye infections if viruses like the herpes simplex virus are present in the birth canal. This is why babies get eye drops or ointment applied to their eyes at birth to protect them from any unknown infections.


— Uveitis 

Uveitis happens as a result of the inflammation of the uvea and can significantly affect your eye health. The uvea is the middle layer of the eye. Uveitis usually has a very quick onset, and the symptoms are sudden. It can cause redness and pain in the eyes, including vision loss. Uveitis can also result in the deterioration of your vision, and this can be permanent if the condition is not treated as soon as possible.

Uveitis can happen as a result of an eye injury, a viral or bacterial infection, or an autoimmune disease.


— Orbital Cellulitis 

Orbital cellulitis occurs when the fat and muscles around the eye become inflamed and infected. It typically affects the eyelids or the skin around the eyes, and it is more prevalent in kids than in adults. Orbital cellulitis is a bacterial infection that happens when bacteria attack the soft tissue surrounding your eye, and the eyelid also falls into that category. The bacteria gains access to the skin via a cut or a scratch, or infection of the sinuses.


— Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an eye infection that involves the inflammation of both eyelids. The inflammation usually targets the edges of the eyelids. The condition causes swelling or deformation of the eyelids but does not cause any permanent damage to your eyesight.

Blepharitis happens when the oil glands at the base of your eyelashes become clogged either by oil or dirt. The clogged oil glands lead to irritation, and you may develop red eyes. There are also other diseases that can trigger Blepharitis. Even though it can be unsightly, it is important to note that it is not contagious. Symptoms include itchiness, light sensitivity, swollen eyelids, and watery eyes.


How To Treat And Prevent Eye Infections

The treatment of an eye infection depends on the cause. Most eye infections like pink eye typically disappear on their own after a few days but if your symptoms are severe, visit your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Eye infections from viruses like herpes simplex or shingles require their own treatment.

There are some over-the-counter medications that you can get to treat eye infections. You can enlist the help of your pharmacist so that you have a better understanding of what works better for your situation.

Treatment can include antiviral medication such as Zovirax. This can be given to you either as an ointment, eyedrops, or oral medication. For eye infections that are allergic in nature, antihistamines like Benadryl can be administered over the counter to help alleviate symptoms.

Fungal eye infections require antifungal medication or eyedrops to get rid of the organisms that triggered the eye infection.

For eye infections like Blepharitis, a dry eye mask will help unclog oil glands and allow the oil to flow freely in the eyelids, solving the problem. The dry eye mask gently compresses the eyelids and gently applies heat consistently to your eyes.


The Bottom Line

The causes and symptoms of eye infections vary, but it always helps to know what to expect. Eye infections like pink eye are very contagious but will not cause any permanent damage to your eyes. Some infections like uveitis can cause permanent damage to the eyes if not treated immediately.

Some medications and ointments can be administered to relieve symptoms, and there are also dry eye masks that help with conditions like Blepharitis. Most eye infections often go away on their own, but you must visit your doctor if you notice anything unusual.


Frequently Asked Questions


Are eye infections contagious?

Not all eye infections are contagious. Those that are triggered by allergies are not contagious, but the same can’t be said for viral and bacterial eye infections. These are highly contagious, especially among kids. Eye infections like pink eye start being contagious as soon as symptoms start appearing, and this will continue for about 24 hours after the affected individual begins taking antibiotics.

Contagious eye infections like conjunctivitis can spread by touching doorknobs, clothes, or other items that an infected person has touched. The best way to curb transmission is to practice basic hygiene religiously and avoid contact as much as possible.


How long do eye infections last?

Viral infections usually last for a week to two weeks. The duration can also depend on the type of eye infection. Viral eye infections tend to take a bit more time to disappear than bacterial eye infections, with viral conjunctivitis taking three weeks to clear up. Taking antibiotics should significantly reduce the time it takes to recover.

Symptoms should start lessening at least 24 hours after you start taking treatment. Taking antibiotics and any prescribed medication will significantly reduce the duration of eye infections. Other treatments like dry eye masks or washing your eyes with salt water will also accelerate recovery.


Will an eye infection go away on its own?

Eye infections typically go away on their own without treatment after just a few days or a maximum of three weeks for viral infections, but this is not always the case. Conditions like uveitis can cause damage to the tissue in the inner part of the eye, and this type of eye infection will only get worse if left untreated.

Pay your doctor a visit as soon as possible if the symptoms don’t improve after a few days or you experience blurred vision and extreme eye pain. A sudden onset of symptoms is also another sign that you need to pay a visit to your ophthalmologist.


Can I go blind from an eye infection?

Most eye infections are pretty manageable and do not cause any permanent effects like blindness. However, some eye infections like endophthalmitis need immediate attention and may cause blindness if not treated. Conditions like fungal keratitis only affect vision if they are not treated early.

Blindness usually happens when an eye infection affects the inner part of the eye and is not attended to immediately. This type of severe eye infection is rare, and it mostly happens after sustaining a severe injury to the eye or after an eye surgery with complications. Visit your ophthalmologist if you experience severe symptoms, or your symptoms take too long to get better.


Can an eye infection spread to the brain?

An eye infection can spread to other body parts, including the brain, and this condition is termed meningitis. Even though an eye infection affecting your brain is a possibility, it is important to note that this only happens in rare instances.

A corneal infection can only affect the brain if the infection also spreads to the back part of the eye in a condition called endophthalmitis. In most cases, your eye doctor or specialist will have no problems stopping the infection from spreading through the use of antibiotics. Blood clots can also form around the eye and interfere with a vein at the base of the brain, though this is rare.


Can I get antibiotic eye drops over the counter?

Treatments like chloramphenicol, which is used to treat a bacterial infection, can be bought over the counter in eye drop form or as an ointment. You would need a prescription from your ophthalmologist to get the oral medication from a pharmacy.

You can buy the eye drops and the ointment without having to get a prescription from your doctor, provided it is for a conjunctivitis infection in a child that is at least two years old or an adult. If allergens or an allergic reaction caused your eye infection, a pharmacist could suggest antihistamines to relieve the symptoms and bring some relief.

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