Eye infections are a common medical issue in people of all ages. If left untreated, they can be frustrating, painful, and potentially injurious to your eyes’ health. Providers at Baptist Health can help put an end to your ailment.
Understanding Eye Infections
An eye infection is any disease of the eyes caused by a harmful microorganism, such as a virus, bacterium, or fungus. Infections tend to occur in three areas of the eye:
- Cornea (the eye’s clear outer surface)
- Conjunctiva (the moist layer on the inside of your eyelids and the outer surface of your eye, excluding the cornea)
Eye infections are a frequent cause of primary care visits. A wide variety have been identified with varying causes and symptoms.
Types of Eye Infections
Here are some leading types of eye infection:
- Conjunctivitis: Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye, occurs when blood vessels in the conjunctiva become infected with virus or bacteria. In its microbial form, pink eye is highly contagious (there is also a noncontagious allergic form).
- Sty: A sty is small bump or pimple that grows on the outer edges of your eyelid. It is caused by a bacterial infection of the oil glands that exist in that part of the eye.
- Keratitis: Keratitis is a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection of the cornea. It can also result from an eye injury. Contact-lens wearers are especially susceptible to contracting keratitis.
- Blepharitis: Blepharitis is a bacterial inflammation of the eyelids. As with sties, the ailment has its origin in the clogging of oil glands at the base of the eyelashes.
- Uveitis: Uveitis is an infection of the uvea, the pigmented layer of the eye, including the iris and choroid. Causes include viral infections, eye injuries, or immune-system deficiencies.
- Cellulitis: Cellulitis is an eyelid infection. It generally occurs when a scratch or minor eye injury becomes infected with some form of bacteria (e.g., Staphylococcus or staph).
- Endophthalmitis: Endophthalmitis is a severe inflammation of the inside of the eye. It results from a bacterial or fungal infection, most often the Candida or yeast fungus.
- Dacryocystitis: Dacryocystitis is a blockage of the tear ducts. It can be congenital (present from birth) or acquired, typically through bacterial infection.
- Ocular herpes: Ocular herpes is an infection of the eye by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). It is spread by contact with other persons carrying the virus (though not sexually like HSV-2, another herpes virus).
Eye Infection Symptoms
Symptoms of eye infection can vary but the following are among the most prevalent:
- Red or swollen eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Eye matter or discharge
- Watery or teary eyes
- Dry eyes
- Blurred vision
You can experience these symptoms singly or in combination.
Preventing Eye Infections
There are several steps you can take to avoid contracting a contagious eye infection:
- Don’t touch your eyes without first washing your hands.
- If a family member has an eye infection, provide him or her with clean towels and bedsheets. Make sure he or she doesn’t share these with anyone else.
- If you’re around someone with an eye infection, limit your physical contact with that person.
- Use anti-infective sprays and cleaners in shared spaces.
- If you have contact lenses, always wash your hands before handling them.
- Be aware that wearing contact lenses significantly increases the chance of an eye infection.
- Allergic reactions to makeup or facial cosmetics can also increase the possibility of additional infection.
Eye Infection Diagnosis and Treatment
Any serious medical issue involving your eyes should be seen by a physician. Diagnosis is largely based on visual evidence. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments and compresses. Viral infections often clear up on their own, but sometimes antiviral eye drops are beneficial.
If you’re dealing with an eye ailment, let the experts at Baptist Health see you through. Schedule an appointment with a Baptist Health provider.
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