Our eyes are extremely sensitive. Although they have a natural defense mechanism in place to protect them from the majority of problems, including infections, when a patient suffers from compromised immunity, they may still find themselves vulnerable to being attacked by infections that are caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Do you think about washing your hands before you touch your eyes? Many of us inadvertently touch our eyes and the skin around them during the day, but when you do this without first washing your hands, you run the risk of transferring any of the bad microorganisms present on them into your eyes, putting them at risk of infection. This is one of the main reasons why washing your hands before placing and removing your contact lenses is strongly recommended.
Eye infections most often occur when harmful microorganisms come into contact with any part of the eyeball or the surrounding tissues. This includes the cornea, which is the clear, front surface of the eye, and the conjunctiva, which is the thin membrane that lines the outer eye and inner eyelids. Exactly what type of infection will ensue will depend on the type microorganism that has been transferred, but all can cause unpleasant symptoms and vision problems in patients.
Whilst transfer of certain viruses, bacteria or fungi into the eyes is the predominant cause of infections, there are a number of other scenarios in which you might develop this issue. Those people who wear contact lenses are at greater risk of contracting an infection of the ocular surface due to low oxygen levels to the cornea, or if their lenses have not been cleaned properly. People who are immune-compromised are also more susceptible.
Conjunctivitis. Probably the most well-known form of eye infection, conjunctivitis is highly contagious and often seen amongst children. It affects the surface of the eyes. Most forms of conjunctivitis are viral or bacterial in nature and can be treated with prescription eye drops.
Keratitis. This type of infection affects the cornea, which is the clear, outermost part of the eye and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. If left untreated, keratitis can lead to serious complications that can permanently damage your vision.
Blepharitis. Blepharitis is an inflammation of the rims of the eyelids, causing them to become red and swollen. It can occur at any age but is more common in people over the age of 50 and young children. It isn’t contagious but can cause discomfort and vision problems in the person affected.
Uveitis. This infection affects the middle layer of tissue in the eyewall and can come on quickly with symptoms worsening rapidly. It can be painful and lead to further eye problems if not treated, including glaucoma and cataracts.
Although symptoms can vary a little depending on the type of infection that you are suffering from, most conditions share similar indicators. These include the following:
- Red eyes
- Discharge from the eyes
- Painful, swollen eyes
- Discharge from the eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Itchy eyes
- Dry, stiff eyes
If you suspect that you may be suffering from an eye infection, it is important that you arrange an appointment with our team as soon as possible so that we can diagnose the issue and get you started on the relevant treatment to alleviate your symptoms and secure your future ocular health.
The good news is that in most instances, eye infections can be treated fairly easily. There is a wide range of different antibiotic eye drops, ointments, and gels that can be used to get the infection under control, while careful washing of the eyes and warm or cold compresses can help to alleviate the symptoms that you may be experiencing.
In the case of viral eye infections, management is usually needed rather than treatment and this is because most viruses will resolve on their own. However, if the problem is taking a long time to clear, you may be given antiviral eyedrops to quicken the process. Our very experienced and knowledgeable team would be happy to help you find the most suitable treatment based on your individual needs.
If you would like more information about eye infections, or if you think you may be affected by an infection of the eyes and would like to book an appointment to be evaluated by our expert team, please contact our offices today.