With so much information coming into our brains through our eyes, it’s essential to keep them free of infection. So how do you know if you’re at risk of developing eye infections? Dr. Jennifer Andrews and the team here at Urban Eye Care in Seattle, Washington, can help.
Our team has put together this guide to help you better understand your risk for eye infections and what you can do about it.
What are eye infections?
An eye infection is a viral or bacterial infection in your eyes or the tissues around your eyes.
Eye infections often cause tearing, sensitivity to light, redness, discharge, irritation, and itching or burning. You may notice the discharge hardens overnight and causes your eyelids to feel “stuck” when you wake up.
It’s possible to have an eye infection in one or both eyes, and they can be mild, not requiring treatment, or severe and require medical care and, on rare occasions, emergency treatment.
Because an eye infection can affect your vision, it’s important to see Dr. Andrews if you have severe symptoms or if your infection doesn’t improve or resolve within 2-3 days.
Common eye infections
There are many types of eye infections. Four of the most common include:
Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
Pink eye occurs when the blood vessels in the outermost membrane of your eye become infected and cause your eyes to appear pink or red.
Keratitis results when your cornea is infected and causes redness, swelling, discomfort, discharge or tearing, light sensitivity, blurry vision, or feeling like there’s something in your eye.
Blepharitis occurs when your eyelids become inflamed, usually from bacterial buildup, and causes red, itchy, swollen eyes or eyelids, oiliness on the eyelids, tearing, or crustiness.
A stye is a pimple-like bump at the edge of your eyelid that becomes infected, causing pain, tenderness, itching, and swelling.
The earlier your eye infection is treated, the faster it’s likely to resolve and the lower your risk of developing complications or long-term problems.
Who is at risk for eye infections?
The truth is, anyone can develop an eye infection under the right circumstances.
Contact lens wearers, for example, have a higher risk for keratitis. This typically results when they sleep with their lenses in, don’t practice proper lens care, or come in contact with a microbe that gets trapped under the lens.
Young children experience widespread eye infections in the form of pink eye. This is because kids share playground equipment and materials at school and spend time in close quarters in the classroom — without practicing the best hand hygiene.
Eye infections are also more common in people with allergies or who have a viral infection, like a cold or the flu. Sharing makeup, personal care items, or towels and sheets with other people can also lead to an eye infection.
How you can prevent eye infections
Since eye infections can strike anyone at any time, prevention is the best medicine. Here are some tips for avoiding infections of the eyes:
- Don’t touch your eyes or face without washing your hands
- Wash your hands frequently
- Always use clean towels and tissues on your eyes
- Don’t share makeup (especially eye makeup) with anyone
- Wash your pillowcase weekly
- If you wear contacts, clean them daily
- Avoid contact with people who have an active eye infection
- Remove your eye makeup before bed
- Clean your sunglasses and eyeglasses frequently
If you suspect you have an eye infection, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrews at Urban Eye Care. In the case of an eye infection emergency, immediately call (206) 235-0789, Dr. Andrews’ after-hours emergency number.
Symptoms of an eye infection emergency include bleeding, sudden vision loss, unequal pupils, double vision, and extreme sensitivity to light.