What are Ocular Infections (Eye Infections)?
Eye Infections are eye ailments that are caused by bacterial, viral, or other microbiological agents. There are many different types of eye infections with different causes and treatments. Some eye infections are common while others are rare.
Ocular infections, also known as uveitis, occur most frequently in people ages 20 to 60 and affect men and women equally. It encompasses a group of diseases that produce swelling in the eye and destroy eye tissues. Uveitis can reduce vision and even lead to severe vision loss.
The name “uveitis” comes from the part of the eye affected by the disease, the uvea. However, uveitis is not limited to the uvea and can also affect the lens, retina, optic nerve, and vitreous, producing reduced vision, and possibly blindness, if left untreated. Uveitis can last for a short (acute) or long (chronic) time. Severe forms of the disease can reoccur many times.
Uveitis can be caused by complications or diseases that occur in the eye and can also result from ocular infections that affect other parts of the body. The inflammatory response inside the eye can produce swelling, redness and heat, and can destroy tissues as white blood cells swarm the affected area.
Causes of ocular infections include an attack from the body’s own immune system (autoimmune disorders), infection, tumors occurring within the eye or other parts of the body, bruises to the eye, or toxins that may penetrate the eye.
Most of us will either have come upon an eye infection or know someone who has had one. People who wear contact lenses often find themselves getting some type of eye infection. This is due to the bacterial buildup from constantly wearing the lenses without proper disinfecting. Some common eye infections are pink eye and Blepharitis.
What are the symptoms of Eye Infections?
- Chronic redness
- Persistent Itching
- Flaking of the eyelids
- Discomfort of the eyes
- Blurring vision
- Watery eyes
- Eye discharge
- Eye pain
- Swelling of tissue surrounding eyes or eyelids
What are the different types of Eye Infections?
- Corneal Ulcer
- Pink Eye – Conjunctivitis
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Treatment Options for Ocular Infections
Eye infections usually require some type of medication for treatment. Although some are not as dangerous, there are some eye infections that require a doctor’s immediate attention. If you believe you have an eye infection, you should seek an eye care professional for advice on type and treatment of the eye infection. Eye infections can affect any part of the eyes from the eyelids to the cornea and even to the optic nerve in the back of the eye.
Treating your pink eye usually depends on the type of conjunctivitis you have.
If your conjunctivitis is caused by a viral infection, there are no specific treatments. Your body fights the virus on its own. Placing a cool, wet washcloth on your eyes can help make them feel more comfortable.
If your pink eye is caused by a bacterial infection, your eye doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops, depending on how severe your symptoms are. Antibiotics do not treat an infection caused by a virus or by allergy.
If your conjunctivitis is due to allergies, you might be told to use certain eye drops to help with the itchiness and puffiness.
Sometimes conjunctivitis can be caused by a chemical or other substance in your eye. In this case, rinse the eye free of the substance. You might be told to use certain eye drops or ointment for the eyes.
Soak a clean washcloth in hot water and hold it to your eyelid for 10–15 minutes at a time, 3–5 times a day. Keep the cloth warm by soaking it in hot water often. For a chalazion, this warm compress helps the clogged oil gland to open and drain. You can help the gland clear itself by gently massaging around the area with your clean finger.
Your eye doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for an infected stye.
If your chalazion is very swollen, your eye doctor may give you a steroid shot (cortisone) to reduce the swelling.
Surgery to drain the area
If your stye or chalazion affects vision or does not go away, you may need to have it drained. This surgery is usually done in the doctor’s office using local anesthesia.
If a stye or chalazion keeps coming back time after time, your eye doctor may biopsy it. This is where a tiny piece of tissue is removed and studied. This helps your eye doctor check to see if there is a more serious eye problem.
Do not squeeze or try to pop a stye or chalazion
Doing so could spread the infection into your eyelid. Do not wear eye makeup or contact lenses while you have a stye or chalazion.
Unfortunately there is not a cure for blepharitis, but there are a number of things you can do to help control the symptoms. Treatments include:
Change to – Apply warm compresses to the eyelids with your eyes closed for 5-10 minutes twice daily. Reheat compress if needed during treatment. Alternatively, you can buy ready-made commercial gel hot packs, such as a Bruder mask at our front desk or at a pharmacy.
Scrub your eyelids with a cotton applicator or the end of a washcloth with a mixture of warm water and small amount of baby shampoo twice daily. Alternatively, you can buy lid scrubs, such as OcuSoft or Avenova, at our front desk or at a pharmacy.
Your eye doctor may have you use an antibiotic ointment on your eyes. Put a small amount of ointment on a clean fingertip or a cotton swab (Q-tip). Gently apply the ointment to the base of your eyelashes. Do this just before bedtime, or as your doctor recommends. Your doctor might also prescribe an antibiotic medicine for you to take by mouth.
Artificial tears or steroid eye drops may reduce redness, swelling and dry eye. Your eye doctor might prescribe an antibiotic eye drop to help the oil glands work better.
To diagnose bacterial keratitis, your eye doctor will discuss your symptoms with you. They may gently scrape the eye to take a small sample and test it for infection.
Bacterial keratitis is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops. Drops are usually put in frequently. Treatment may also involve steroid drops. You may need to return to your eye doctor several times.
If you and your eye doctor find and treat bacterial keratitis early, you may preserve your vision. In severe cases decreased vision or blindness may be the result. This is also true if the infection affects the center of the cornea. Sometimes a cornea transplant is needed to restore vision.
Antibiotics are effective in treating early cases of trachoma. Early treatment can prevent long-term complications.
More advanced cases may need surgery. The surgery repositions eyelashes that are growing inward toward the eye. This can help limit further scarring of the cornea and prevent further loss of vision.
An eye doctor can also treat severe scarring from trachoma with corneal transplantation. A corneal transplant can help if the cornea is so clouded that vision is significantly impaired.
Good hygiene, such as hand washing and face washing, can help prevent the spread of trachoma.
In order to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem, there is a WHO-recommended “S.A.F.E.” strategy which includes:
- Surgery for trichiasis
- Antibiotics to clear Chlamydia trachomatis infection
- Facial cleanliness
- Environmental improvement to reduce transmission
Source: American Academy Ophthalmology