What are eye infections?
There are various different eye infections, such as keratitis, fungal eye infections, uveitis and styes. One of the most common eye infections is conjunctivitis (pink eye). This condition normally affects both eyes, making them appear bloodshot and watery. Conjunctivitis is commonly caused by bacteria or a viral infection, or an allergic reaction; while it can be an unpleasant condition, it rarely results in vision loss
Keratitis can also cause red eyes, as well as eye pain and sensitivity to light. This infection can be caused by viruses like herpes simplex and herpes zoster.
Complete a confidential online consultation at Medicine Direct. One of our registered doctors will review your answers to diagnose your eye infection. They will then prescribe the most appropriate medical treatment for you to use to clear it. We stock antibiotics and eye drops to combat a range of infections.
Eye infection symptoms
Your symptoms may vary depend on the type of eye infection you have.
If you are suffering from conjunctivitis, the common symptoms include:
- Bloodshot/redness in the eyes
- Watery eyes
- Itchiness in one eye or both
- A gritty feeling in the eye
- Discharge from the eye that forms a crust that stops you from opening your eyes
If you wear contact lenses, you should stop doing so as soon as any conjunctivitis symptoms start to show. If your symptoms have not gone away within one day, you should speak to a doctor; this will allow them to rule out a more serious eye problem you could be suffering from through contact lens use.
Common symptoms of keratitis include:
- Redness of the eyes
- Vision loss
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Feeling like there is something in your eye
- Eye pain
- Tears or discharge from the eye
- Difficulty opening the eyelid due to pain or irritation
If you are suffering form any of these symptoms, you should seek medical advice soon as possible. Without treatment, keratitis may lead to serious eye problems; it may even cause blindness in some cases.
Eye Infection Causes
Eye infections can be caused by a number of factors.
The causes of conjunctivitis may include:
- Bacterial infection
- Foreign objects getting into the eyes
- A blocked tear duct in newborn babies
- Chemical being splashed in the eye
- A viral infection, such as herpes
The causes of keratitis can include:
- An eye injury, such as an object scratching the surface of your cornea. This may cause non-infectious keratitis. If the injury causes bacteria to gain reach the damaged cornea, this may lead to infectious keratitis.
- Viruses, such as herpes simplex or herpes zoster. Herpes simplex keratitis is a common cause of blindness.
- Bacteria, such as the bacteria that causes gonorrhea.
- Contaminated contact lenses (bacteria, parasites or fungi may be on the contact lens' surface, which can infect your cornea).
- Contaminated water, especially in the likes of lakes, rivers and hot tubs, could get into your eyes and cause infection. However, unless the surface of your cornea has been damaged in the past, it is not likely that you will get an eye infection this way.
Other infections which can cause conjunctivitis or keratitis
As well as the causes listed above, the following types of infection can also lead to infections in the eye:
- Lyme disease
- Sexually transmitted infections: syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes simplex, and hepatitis B
- A parasite known as acanthamoeba
- Crab lice
- Mumps, measles, influenza, or shingles
- Onchocerciasis (also known as river blindness)
- Mycosis (fungal infections). The same fungal infection that causes thrush (candida) can also get into your eyes.
- Epstein-Barr virus or infectious mononucleosis
Eye Infection Diagnosis
Different diagnostic methods will be applied depending on the type of eye infection you are suspected of having. This will help to inform the type of treatment you require.
To properly diagnose an eye infection, it is important that you speak to a doctor. In cases of conjunctivitis, they will normally be able to diagnose the condition by asking you some questions about your recent health history and the symptoms you have been experiencing.
In some cases, they may wish to take a sample of the pus or water that leaks from your eye so they can send it for tests. Usually, this will not be necessary. However, if you have severe symptoms your doctor believes that the cause behind the infection is a high-risk, they may take a sample. Examples of a high-risk cause include a serious bacterial infection, a sexually transmitted infection or a foreign body in your eyes.
Diagnosing keratitis will normally begin with your doctor examining your eyes. The doctor will also want to test how well you can see.
As with conjunctivitis, the doctor may also wish to take a sample of your tears or cornea cells for analysis. This will help them to discover where the infection came from and aid them in prescribing the most effective form of treatment.
They may examine your eyes using an instrument called a slit-lamp, which uses a bright light to examine the infection more thoroughly. It also examines the effects it may have on the eye structure.
A penlight exam is another examination your doctor may carry out. If they carry out this exam, they will use a penlight to check things like your pupil's size and reactions. They may apply a harmless stain to your eye's surface; this will help them to spot any irregularities in your eye.
Different treatment methods exist for different types of eye infections. Medicine Direct stocks a range of medication for the treatment of various common eye infections.
After being diagnosed with the correct type of eye infection, your doctor can prescribe the most effective treatment. Always read the patient information leaflet thoroughly and follow your doctor's instructions carefully.
Aside from your prescribed treatment, you should also be sure to take care not to spread the infection. You can do this by washing your hands frequently, avoiding public pools and baths and using separate towels and linen to the rest of your household.
Conjunctivitis treatment options
Treatment for this condition is normally centred around relieving your symptoms. You should avoid wearing contact lenses until your eye infection has been cleared completely.
A doctor may recommend that you use eye drops like artificial tears, clean the eyelids with a wet cloth and apply a compress each day.
Most cases of this condition are viral, and viral conjunctivitis cannot be cured by antibiotic eye drops or tablets. The virus will need to run its course, which will normally take a few weeks. However, if doctors believe that the problem was caused by the herpes simplex virus, they may prescribe an antiviral medication for you to take.
If you are suffering from allergic conjunctivitis (caused by allergies), a range of eye drops are available to lessen the effects. The likes of antihistamines, steroids and anti-inflammatory drops are just a few of the medical treatments that can be prescribed for this type of conjunctivitis.
Keratitis treatment options
Keratitis can result in different types of eye infections, so the treatment method depends on the type of infection you have.
If it is fungal keratitis, antifungal eye drops or medication are usually prescribed to treat the infected eyes. Mild bacterial eye infections might only require eye drops to effectively clear, although if the eye infection is stronger, oral antibiotics may also be required to provide effective treatment.
Viral keratitis may be cured with antiviral drops or medication. If the cause of the infection was found to be the parasite acanthamoeba, this may make it harder to treat than a viral or fungal infection. Initially, you will probably be prescribed antibacterial eye drops, but a cornea transplant might be required in very severe cases.
What is conjunctivitis?
Who can get eye infections?
Should I go to the doctors if I get eye infection symptoms?
Is there anything I can do to ease discomfort?
Is there a single cure for all types of eye infection?
How long does conjunctivitis last?
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