Questions to Ask your Optometrist: Eye Infections
As well as being vital organs, eyes are also particularly vulnerable and we need to be especially cautious when it comes to caring for them.
For some people, it can be hard to perceive the severity of eye infections, but it’s always best to play it safe.
This article aims to provide some clarity over certain eye infections, what you may need to ask your Optometrist when you visit, and the answers they are likely to give you.
Is my eye infected or damaged and what is the difference?
Eye infections are caused when micro-organisms infect the eyeball or its surrounding area. Eye damage is usually on the surface of the eye due to physical causes, such as a scratch from contact with grit or sand. 1
A physical blow to or bump on the area around the eye may also affect the eyeball too. Both infection and damage can involve multiple symptoms, including swelling, itchiness, blurry vision, light sensitivity and watery or red eyes.
Your Optometrist will usually be able to tell the difference.
How did my eye become infected?
There are many different types of eye infections, hence there are various causes. Primarily, eye infections are broken down into three groups: bacterial, viral and fungal.
Bacterial or viral eye infections tend to be contracted through the accidental introduction of a micro-organism into your eye, simply by rubbing or wiping your eye, for example.
Fungi can invade the eye through organic matter, perhaps due to a penetrating injury, such as a cut to the eye from a tree branch. So, physical damage may also be a gateway for infection.
What types of infections are there?
Infective conjunctivitis is a common eye infection and involves inflammation of the conjunctiva. It can be caused by various micro-organisms.
- Conjunctivitis could also be the result of irritable toxins like chlorine or shampoo, smoke, perfumes or a variety of other chemicals - this is known as non-infectious or irritant conjunctivitis.
Corneal ulcers tend to occur when bacteria, fungi or viruses penetrate a wound on the cornea, which could result in symptoms such as swelling and redness.
A stye is another fairly common infection. It has the appearance of a small red lump on either the inside or outside of your eyelid.
It forms as a result of bacteria from your skin invading the hair follicle of an eyelash and can be quite painful, causing the eye to water more than usual.
Sexually transmitted viral diseases; chlamydia and gonorrhea can also cause an eye infection and tend to be due to infected people rubbing their eyes after handling their genital area.
Contact lens wearers need to be wary of acanthamoeba keratitis, a potentially sight-threatening infection which occurs when certain parasites invade the eye.
Can you treat eye infections successfully?
Most common eye infections are over relatively quickly, and some may get better with little or no treatment. In some cases, antiviral eye drops might be prescribed, while other cases may require steroid eye drops to help calm inflammation.
Antibiotic eye drops or ointments are available for bacterial eye infections. However, some people may need oral antibiotics to be prescribed for them.
How can I avoid it happening again?
Hygiene is essential to the prevention of eye infections. Naturally, you can pick up many micro-organisms via your hands, so you are advised to always wash them before touching your eyes or eyelids or handling contact lenses. 2
Contact lens wearers are also advised to avoid wearing lenses while swimming, or at least removing and disinfecting them immediately afterwards.
Regularly washing items such as pillow covers and towels is also important when trying to reduce the spread of eye infections.
Never share towels - this is particularly important when you are with a person who you know has an eye condition.
Always remember to wear eye protection if your job, hobby or pursuit poses any sort of threat to your eyes - such as using a chainsaw or when in a laboratory or workshop.
For further information on eye infections and causes, as well as products specifically designed for your eyes, check the Optrex range of products.
If you have a planned appointment with your Optometrist, they will be able to give you the specific advice and treatment you need for your particular eye ailment.