You can do your best to minimize contact with germs, but you can’t entirely avoid them. An officemate emits an uncovered sneeze, catching you in the crossfire. The parking valet who hands back your keys is battling the flu, or the person who pushed the elevator keys right before you has a nasty cold.
Viral, bacterial, and fungal microorganisms abound. Still, there are many steps you can take to stay healthy and avoid getting an eye infection such as viral conjunctivitis (pink eye), bacterial blepharitis, or ocular herpes.
Eye infections develop when germs come in contact with the tissues surrounding the eyes. Many of the most common eye infections invade the clear front surface of your eye called the cornea. Others disrupt the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the thin, moist membrane that lines the outer eye and inner eyelid.
Though eye infections cause bothersome symptoms such as redness, itchiness, dryness, and sensitivity, nearly all are easily treated and most can be avoided.
At Urban Eye Care in Seattle, WA, Jennifer Andrews, OD educates patients to be proactive regarding their eye health. She offers the following tips to help you prevent the irritation of an infection, as well as the potential risk of long-term vision problems that some can lead to.
1. Wash your hands
Your mother was right. Washing your hands — especially before putting in contacts, apply eye drops, or otherwise touch your eyes — is your best defense in staying healthy and preventing eye infections.
Make sure to lather the soap on moistened hands, including the backs of your hands and between your fingers. Thoroughly cleaning your hands takes between 30-60 seconds.
2. Don’t touch your eyes excessively
Touching your eyes can be an unconscious habit, but it’s one well worth breaking. Keeping your hands – which come in constant contact with germs on stair rails and doorknobs – is among the best ways to prevent an infection.
3. Don’t share towels
Launder washcloths and bath towels frequently (and in hot water). Also, avoid sharing your personal towels with anyone else. The same goes for bedding, especially pillowcases.
4. Don’t share cosmetics
To minimize infections of any kind, never share cosmetics and other personal care items with anyone. To reduce your risk of contracting an eye infection, specifically, never share eye makeup, eye drops, or other eye care products with anyone else.
If you ever do develop an eye infection, you can reduce your risk of re-infection by getting rid of any cosmetics or eye care applicators you used on or around your eyes just before or during the infection.
5. Remove eye makeup before bedtime
Always remove your eye makeup before going to bed. Sleeping with eye makeup greatly increases your risk of developing blepharitis. Blepharitis is an inflammatory eye infection that causes redness, itchiness, blurry vision, and the continual foreign body sensation in your eyes.
6. Regularly clean glasses and sunglasses
Eyeglasses and sunglasses may not come in direct contact with your eyes. Still, it’s important to keep them as clean and germ-free as possible. Clean and disinfect your glasses daily with a fresh, lint-free towel that is exclusively used by you.
7. Adhere to proper contact lens hygiene
Wearing contact lenses ups your risk of developing an eye infection. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain high hygiene standards. Follow your doctor’s recommendations. Besides learning the best way to take care of your contacts, make sure to:
Remove them before bedtime
Sleeping in your contact lenses increases your risk of developing a serious corneal infection called microbial keratitis. Even if you use extended wear contact lenses that are FDA-approved for day-to-night wear, including when you sleep, understand that going to bed with any type of contact lens still increases the risk of an eye infection.
Keep out of water
Wearing contact lenses in any type of water, even chlorinated, substantially increases your risk of contracting an infection. Some of these are rare but difficult-to-treat eye infections.
To reduce your risk of contracting an infection, always remove your contacts before going swimming, using a hot tub, or taking a shower.
If you’d like to learn more about how to keep your eyes infection-free and for all of your optometry needs, call Urban Eye Care at 206 344-2020, or use the easy online tool to schedule an appointment.