Eye infections are ailments caused by one or more of the many types of microbiological agents in the environment, most commonly a bacteria or a virus. The same viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi that can invade the body are also able to attack the eye; subsequently, there are no known "eye-bugs" that only attack the eye.
Although the most common type of eye infection is known as conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva), virtually any part of the eye can be affected. The eyelid (blepharitis), the vitreous (vitritis), the optic nerve (neuroretinitis) and the cornea (keratitis) are all prone to infections.
Conjunctivitis is often called pinkeye and is most common among children. This infection is caused by an adenovirus (the type of virus that causes the common cold) and it's highly contagious.
Symptoms of Eye Infections
Eye infections are often very easy to detect. One can do a self diagnosis with high accuracy by checking for the following symptoms:
- Chronic red eyes (commonly referred to as bloodshot eyes)
- Eye discomfort
- Watery eyes
- Sleep (rheum) in the eyes
- Eye swelling
Eye pain can occur in some cases
What Causes Eye Infections?
Causes of eye infections are very numerous and can be often classified as viral, fungal or bacterial. Some of the most common causes include:
The common bacteria found in the skin, mouth and nose can easily cause an eye infection. Fortunately, these bacteria only affect the outer layer of the eye (causing conjunctivitis), but the inner eye – which is far more delicate – remains protected. People who use contact lenses or who have an eye injury are at risk of developing an inner-eye infection.
Sexually transmitted diseases can cause serious damage to the eyes. The infection can get into the eye either by direct contact with a genital fluid, or by eye rubbing after handling their infected genital areas. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes can all cause serious damage to the eyes.
Eye herpes is often caused by HSV type 1 which can be spread through oral fluids and sharing certain objects such as a toothbrush.
Other Causes: Remember that any bacteria, virus or fungi that affects the human body can also cause an infection. Therefore, an eye infection can be caught almost anywhere and it's especially important to keep everything in our home clean.
Eye Infection Risks
Although eye infections may appear harmless at first, they can turn into something much more serious. Therefore it's important to consult an eye doctor promptly in order to receive adequate treatment.
How is an Eye Infection Treated?
The effective treatment of an eye infection depends greatly upon an accurate diagnosis by a qualified eye doctor. If the infection is taken care of in its early stages, a few eye drops will suffice to take care of it.
Other Things to Know…
– Conjunctivitis is highly contagious. If you're diagnosed with the condition, it's your responsibility to stay at home. It's especially important not to rub your eyes as doing so will contaminate your hands and clothes.
- Eye infections often begin in one eye and later spread to the other. There's nothing you can do to prevent this.
- Wearing contact lenses increases your likelihood of catching an eye infection. Taking proper care of your contact lenses and maintaining them clean is essential to avoid infections.
- Since you will often touch your eyes and face without realizing it, a great way to prevent eye infections is to wash your hands often. It's especially important to wash your hands after going to the bathroom as any minor infection in your genital area could lead to a serious eye infection.