If you have pain and swelling in your eye, you may have an eye infection. Most eye infections are treated with a combination of medications and home remedies, although treatment varies depending on the cause: bacterial, viral, or fungal.
Medications for eye infections may include the following:
- Bacterial: Treatment typically involves ointments, eye drops, and oral medications. For infections caused by allergies, over-the-counter antihistamines (such as diphenhydramine or loratadine) may be administered.
- Viral: Generic medications are not used to treat viral eye infections, and the condition typically gradually resolves on its own in 7-0 days. Symptom relief in the form of lubricant eye drops may be administered along with oral antihistamines for itchiness.
- Fungal: Antifungal eye drops are generally used to treat fungal eye infections.
- Warm or cold compress: Applying warm compresses to the affected eye can help alleviate soreness and itchiness. Cold compresses can help ease discomfort as well.
- Green tea: Apply refrigerated green tea bags and apply them to the eyes for 10-15 minute to soothe swelling and inflammation.
- Saline drops: Saline or salt water mimics the effect of teardrops and can help clean the eye and relieve symptoms.
If you notice symptoms of an eye infection, consult an ophthalmologist for proper care. Improper treatment of an eye condition can lead to eye damage or loss of vision in extreme cases.
What are symptoms of an eye infection?
Common symptoms of eye infections include:
8 common causes of eye infections
Also called pink eye, conjunctivitis is one of the most common viral eye infections. The infection occurs when the blood vessels in the conjunctiva become infected, causing the eyes to become inflamed and turn pink or red.
Treatment for pinkeye include cold compresses, topical antihistamines, artificial tears, antibiotic eye drops, and oral antibiotics.
Infections in the cornea, which is the clear layer that covers the pupils and iris, can lead to a condition called keratitis. It can result from fungal, viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. Keratitis can develop from dirty contact lenses,weakened immune system, humid climate eye injury, or long-term use of corticosteroid eye drops.
Treatment of keratitis may include antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal drugs in the form of eye drops or pills. Eye patches may be prescribed in some cases.
Endophthalmitis is inflammation of the insides of the eye caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. This condition usually develops after eye surgery such as cataract surgery or caused by injury such as with a sharp object.
Most cases of endophthalmitis require antibiotic or antifungal injections and possibly emergency surgery.
Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids which can occur when the oil glands inside the eyelids get clogged. Factors that can lead to the condition include scalp or eyebrow dandruff, allergic reaction to makeup, lice or mites in the eyelashes, or weakened immune system.
Symptoms can be treated with home care such as regular cleaning of the eyelids and eyelashes with water. Treating underlying conditions such as dandruff or rosacea can help keep blepharitis under control. Severe cases of blepharitis may require antibiotics or steroids.
Also called a hordeolum, a sty is a pimple-like bump that forms an oil gland on the outer edges of the eyelids. Due to the accumulation of dead skin, oils, and other debris, the glands become clogged, causing bacteria to overgrow.
Most stys will clear on their own. You can also use a warm compress for 15 minutes and gently massage the nodule 4-5 times a day.
Uvea is the central layer of the eyeball that helps carry blood to the retina. Uveitis occurs when an infection causes inflammation in the uvea and can be caused by autoimmune disorders, a weakened immune system, eye injuries, or viral infections. Uveitis usually does not lead to serious problems, but if not treated properly, it can lead to vision loss.
Treatment may include steroids in the form of pills, eye drops, or injections.
Cellulitis requires antibiotic treatment, sometimes in a hospital. More severe cases may require surgery to drain fluid from the infected area.
8. Ocular herpes
How to prevent an eye infection
After recovering from an eye infection, you can prevent it from recurring with the following measures:
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Watson S, Cabrera-Aguas M, Khoo P. Common eye infections. Aust Prescr. 2018 Jun;41(3):67-72. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29922000/
Medline Plus. Eye Infections. https://medlineplus.gov/eyeinfections.html
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