What is an eye infection?

Eye infections can be bacterial or viral. They typically cause redness, swelling, discharge, watery eyes or general discomfort in the eyes.
Eye infections can be bacterial or viral. They typically cause redness, swelling, discharge, watery eyes or general discomfort in the eyes.

An eye infection is a condition in which viruses, bacteria or other microbial agents may attack the eye. This can cause itching around the eyes or the eyes may turn pink. The infection can affect the following parts of the eye

  • Eyelid
  • Cornea: A clear surface that covers outside of the iris.
  • Conjunctiva: A thin, moist area that covers the inside of the eyelids and outer part of the eye.

What are some common eye infections?

Some common eye infections include the following

  • Conjunctivitis: Commonly known as “pink eye,” this is an infection of the conjunctiva. Besides bacteria or viruses, this can also be due to an allergic reaction or irritants. It can make the eye look pink or reddish.
  • Keratitis: It is an inflammation of the cornea that can be caused due to bacteria, viruses or parasites in the water. It is more common in people using contact lenses.
  • Stye: It occurs as a painful, red bump under the eyelid or at the base of the eyelashes. The bacteria infect the oil glands in the eyelid or eyelashes to produce stye. Styes are not contagious and harmless.
  • Fungal eye infections: Infections that occur due to fungal infections are rare but serious. Fungal infections usually occur after an eye injury or from using dirty lenses.
  • Uveitis: It is the inflammation of the middle layer of the eye called the uvea. Viruses such as herpes or autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can cause uveitis.
  • Blepharitis: It is the inflammation of the base of the eyelashes caused by bacteria.

What are the symptoms of eye infections?

The symptoms may be present in one or both eyes. The patient may experience the following symptoms in and around the eye

What are the complications of eye infections?

The complications of an eye infection include

  • Orbital cellulitis: It is the infection of the tissues surrounding the eyeball. This may be the consequence of rubbing or popping a stye.
  • Dacryocystitis: It is swelling and blockage of the eye’s tear drainage system.
  • Corneal ulcer: It is a blister on the cornea.

If left untreated, these conditions can result in

  • Vision loss
  • Damage to the retina
  • Formation of scar
  • Meningitis: Inflammation of the lining of the brain.

How are eye infections treated?

Eye infections are mainly treated with medications. Some severe cases may require surgery. 

The treatment options for various eye infections are as follows

  • Conjunctivitis: Treatment options include the use of antibiotics, antihistamines or topical steroids.
  • Uveitis: Mainly treated with anti-inflammatory eye drops or oral immunosuppressant drugs.
  • Blepharitis: Treatment options include topical and oral antibiotics as well as topical steroids.
  • Keratitis: Treatment options include antibacterial, antifungal or antiviral medications.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/7/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference