Eye infections occur when micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi and viruses invade any part of the eyeball or the surrounding area. An infection in your eye can show up in many different ways. A lot depends on which part of your eye the problem occurs.
Anytime you suspect an eye infection, you should visit your eye doctor for an exam. To self-diagnose your condition can delay your treatment and might harm your eyesight, and transfer the infection to others.
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Eye infection: What causes it?
Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and you may have symptoms in one or both eyes when you have an infection. Symptoms of eye infections may include redness, itching, swelling, discharge, pain, or problems with vision. Treatment depends on the cause of the infection and may include compresses, eye drops, creams, or antibiotics.
In this article, we will dive into the most common eye infections, symptoms, causes and treatment options. Please note that if you’re ever in doubt you should always contact your doctor before starting treatment. Purchasing the wrong treatment might in the worst case worsen the infection, and harm your eyesight.
Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
Conjunctivitis is caused by either bacteria or virus. You can recognise this type of infection by the appearance of the surface of the eye and the retina. This type of infection, also called pink eye, is highly contagious because airborne viruses can be spread through sneezing and coughing. Unlike bacterial infections, antibiotics do not work against a viral infection. This means no eye drops or ointments are effective against the common viruses that cause viral conjunctivitis, but with this type of infection, they usually disappear by themselves after a short time. The third through to the fifth day is known as the worst peak time of the infection, after that, it’s known to begin to improve.
If it’s a bacterial infection you might be prescribed antibiotics. But these won’t work if it’s caused by a virus (viral conjunctivitis) or an allergy. If your pink eye is caused by a viral infection with no other complications, your eyes should clear up by itself within a few days to two weeks. But with a bacterial pink eye, with treatment such as prescription antibiotic eye drops, the infection can last up to a month or longer. But, with this type of pink eye, people should not be contagious more than 24 hours after antibiotic treatment begins. Treatment is usually continued for one to two weeks, depending on the severity of the infection.
Symptoms for this infection include:
- burn or feel gritty
- Redness around the eye
- produce pus that sticks to lashes
Fungal eye infection
Fungal eye infections are not common, but when the infection occurs it can be very serious. The inflammation or infection of the cornea (the clear, front layer of the eye) is known as keratitis, and inflammation or infection in the interior of the eye is called endophthalmitis.
Many different types of fungi can cause eye infections. The types of fungi that cause eye infections is Fusarium, which is a fungus that you find in the environment of soil and plants. The second is, Aspergillus, this is a common fungus that lives in indoor and outdoor environments, at last, Candida, the one that you already might have heard about, this is a type of yeast that normally lives on the skin and on the protective lining inside the body called the mucous membrane.
This type of eye infection is very rare and usually occurs when by injuries, after an eye surgery or if the fungal already is in your bloodstream. There are some symptoms to look out for if you notice any of these symptoms contact your doctor straight away. Some of the symptoms include:
- Eye pain
- Eye redness
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Excessive tearing
- Eye discharge
Stye eye infection
Styes are common and should clear up on their own within a week or two. They’re rarely a sign of anything serious but may be painful until they heal. A stye usually only affects one eye but it’s possible to have more than one at a time. Don’t try to burst a stye or remove an eyelash yourself, this can spread the infection. Styes are often caused by bacteria infecting an eyelash follicle or eyelid gland. You’re also more likely to get a stye if you have long-term blepharitis. Stye may look a bit worrying, but it’s very common and usually nothing to worry about.
The symptoms of stye include:
- A small bump on the inside or outside of the eyelid (looks a bit like a spot)
Swollen, red eyelid
- Feels painful or tender, particularly when you blink
If the infection gets worse or stays on for longer than two-three weeks, contact your GP to make sure it’s no underlying problems, complications or a different type of infection.
How long does it take for an eye infection to clear up?
This depends on the type of infection you have, as mentioned above you can read how long the different types take to disappear, it also depends if you are treating the infection with some sort of medication or not, eye drops might help to remove the symptoms faster, we recommend to see your GP for further instructions, and if you will be needing any drugs.
How to treat an eye infection?
Depending on the underlying cause of your eye infection, your doctor also may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medications that are taken orally. If your symptoms worsen or change, contact your eye doctor immediately.
The most common medication in the UK is Azyter, these eye drops contain the active ingredient azithromycin, which is a type of medicine called macrolide antibiotic. Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria.
At last, we recommend you to make an appointment with either your GP or an online doctor to make sure there’s no underlying problem and do not try to self-diagnose when this can create further problems and complications if treating wrong.