Eye infections can affect anyone, and most of them are caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other microbiological agents. These pathogens can cause eye irritation, redness, itching, swelling, and other related symptoms. There are many different causes for getting eye infections. In some cases, they are not dangerous and they can go away by themselves, but if you feel pain or visual disturbances, it is necessary to see a doctor.However, the best way to protect our eyes is to maintain good hygiene in order to prevent infectious diseases, that can lead to additional eye-related conditions.
The most common eye infections are:
Conjunctivitis1, or popularly known as red-eye, is the most common inflammation of the outer layer of the eyeball. Conjunctivitis or inflammation of the conjunctiva occurs in various forms, from mild to severe inflammation that causes tissue damage and death.
Very often it is caused by an adenovirus, such as the common cold. Conjunctivitis caused by bacteria and viruses is contagious and can be easily transmitted. Using the same objects with an infected person and through direct contact are the most common ways of transmitting the infection.
The most known symptoms2 of viral conjunctivitis are:
- red eye (conjunctival hyperemia)
- itching, stinging, or scratching in the eye
- closed eyelids that are difficult to open (blepharospasm)
- sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- increased tearing (epiphora)
- increased secretion
Your doctor probably won’t give you anything for treating viral conjunctivitis, because unlike other types of red-eye, the infection usually goes away spontaneously in 2 to 4 weeks.Bacterial conjunctivitis – if you have this type of conjunctivitis, you will probably need proper therapy like antibiotic eye drops to kill the bacteria. Symptoms will fade away after a couple of days with the right medication.
Keratitis3 is a condition where the eye’s cornea becomes inflamed and can be very painful. Some causes of keratitis include infection, contaminated lenses, viruses, or injury. There are several types of keratitis and each of them requires different treatment. People with contact lens have a potential risk of developing keratitis.
The symptoms of keratitis are initially very similar to the symptoms of conjunctivitis:
- eye discomfort
- sensitivity of the eye to light
- red eyes
- foreign body sensation in the eye
- swollen eyes
- tearful eyes
- discharge from the eye
Bacterial keratitis4 is most commonly treated with antibacterial drops in combination with oral antibiotics. Fungal keratitis is treated with antifungal tablets and eye drops, and viral keratitis is treated with antiviral eye drops and antiviral tablets. Acanthamoeba keratitis is difficult to treat and often the medication given does not affect it.Each type of keratitis is treated differently, and if the prescribed therapy does not work and there is permanent damage to the cornea, your doctor can offer corneal transplantation as a solution.
Blepharitis5 is an inflammation of the eyelids, i.e. eyelid. It can be acute or chronic and can be caused by bacteria, allergic reactions, and uncorrected refractive anomalies. It is manifested by itching, burning, redness, and edema.
It is mostly chronic inflammation, and the symptoms are difficult to eliminate permanently.
Symptoms of blepharitis may include:
- redness at the edge of the eyelid
- foreign body sensation in the eye
- increased tear production
- eyelash loss
- red and watery eyes
- sensitivity to strong light and smoky space
- blinding of the eyelids
Endophthalmitis6 is an acute, diffuse uveitis most often caused by a bacterial infection. This infection can happen if you recently had eye surgery, although this is rare. It may also happen if an object penetrates your eyelid.
Some symptoms include:
- mild to severe eye pain
- blurry vision
- swelling around the eye and eyelids
- partial or complete vision loss
- sensitivity to bright lights
Uveitis7 is an inflammation of the central layer of your eyeball, the uvea. The uvea comprises many blood vessels that nourish the eye. Uveitis can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated properly. There are 3 types of uveitis, depending on which part of the uvea is affected by inflammation.
Uveitis can develop abruptly.
Some of the symptoms are:
- redness, sometimes painless, sometimes accompanied by pain
- sensitivity to light
- blurred vision
- a sudden appearance of dots or bubbles in your view
The Bottom Line
Treating eye infections on your own can worsen the condition. Once you notice the symptoms mentioned above, visit your eye doctor. Your eyes are a very sensitive organ in your body. They need proper care in order to stay healthy and prevent additional eye-related conditions. One of the most important things is hygiene. It is therefore important to take good care of your eyes!
1. Amir A. Azari, MD and Neal P. Barney, MD. Conjunctivitis. JAMA. 2013 Oct 23; 310(16): 1721–1729
2. Kierstan B. July 20, 2021. Conjunctivitis: What Is Pink Eye?
3. Prabhakar S. Abhishek G. Koushik T. August 21, 2021. Keratitis. ;
4. David T. Sep. 24, 2020. What is Fungal Keratitis?
5. NHS. Blepharitis
6. M L Durand. Endophthalmitis, 2013 Mar; 19(3): 227–234.
7. Kierstan B. Nov. 09, 2020. What Is Uveitis?