Eye Infections are eye ailments caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal agents. There are many different types of eye infections, with different causes and treatments. All parts of the eye are susceptible to infection.
Eye infections can affect one or both eyes, and can occur in people of all ages. Symptoms can include irritation, redness, discharge, and reduced vision. Treatment typically depends on the cause. Let’s go over the possible causes of eye infections now.
Red, itchy eyes, swollen, red eyelids, bumps on the eyes or under the lids
Be careful not to rub your eyes if your hands are unwashed. Women should make sure they are not using old make-up that can contain bacteria or other contaminants. Consider using organic, chemical-free makeup.
Infectious conjunctivitis is the most common cause of pinkeye around the world. Causes of infectious conjunctivitis are numerous and can usually be classified as viral, bacterial, or fungal.
Some of the most common causes of serious eye infection include:
Ocular histoplasmosis syndrome (OHS)
Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection of the lungs, which is caught by inhaling spores. It’s common in river valleys around the world. It’s far more common in the US than in Canada, and is concentrated in the area known as the Bible Belt (called the “Histo Belt” by eye doctors). Over 90% of adults in the southeastern US have had histoplasmosis, which usually causes no symptoms. In a small fraction of cases, the fungus migrates to the retina many years or decades later. Once there, it damages the retina, particularly the macula (the vital centre part where the vision cells are most concentrated). It causes symptoms and retinal decay very similar to macular degeneration, and can destroy the central part of the field of vision. People of African descent are largely immune. Although only a tiny minority of people with histoplasmosis go on to suffer OHS, the fungus is so common that OHS is a significant infectious cause of legal blindness in Americans between the ages of 20 to 40 years.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea
These extremely common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause conjunctivitis, though they don’t usually cause serious damage to the eye in adults. The infection gets into the eye either directly through genital fluids such as semen, or when infected people rub their eyes after handling infected genital areas. Babies born to genitally infected women are at especially high risk of eye infection. Neisseria gonorrheae is one of the few bacteria capable of penetrating the protective layers of the eye, causing inner-eye infection.
This widely prevalent virus can be caught as a skin disease (cold sores) or as an STI. Herpes viruses can infect the eye in the same way as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Like these diseases, herpes can cause pitting and ulceration of the cornea. Chronic herpes infection, which is uncommon, can cause acute retinal necrosis (ARN), particularly in men. This causes a major destruction of retinal tissue, and causes dramatic damage to vision. About 15% of people with chronic ocular herpes simplex lose some vision.
Shingles (herpes zoster, varicella zoster)
Shingles are a reactivation of the virus that initially causes chickenpox. The sores known as shingles are infectious and can cause chickenpox in others. They can also cause ocular infection if you touch the eyes after touching a sore. While herpes simplex is the leading cause of acute retinal necrosis in the young, varicella zoster is the leading cause in people over 50 years of age because shingles is more common in this age group.
This is an infection of the cornea by common bacteria found on the skin and in the mouth and nose. Normally, these bacteria can’t penetrate the outer layer of the eye, and cause only conjunctivitis. However, eye injury, lack of oxygen due to contact lenses, or a weak immune system can all facilitate entry into the cornea, the clear layer in the front of the eye. Fungi can cause fungal keratitis under similar circumstances.
Infections that can cause conjunctivitis or keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) include:
- the STIs syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes simplex, and hepatitis B
- Lyme disease
- acanthamoeba – a common parasite
- crab lice – these tiny animals can live and breed in your eyelashes and are invisible to the naked eye
- Epstein-Barr virus or infectious mononucleosis
- mumps, measles, influenza, or shingles
- onchocerciasis (river blindness)
- sarcoidosis – the cause of this condition is not clear, but it may be due to an infection
- mycosis (general name for fungal infections) – Candida, the fungus that causes thrush, is one of more than 60 types of fungus that can infect the eye
Infections that can damage the retina and the inner eye include:
- herpes simplex
- varicella zoster (shingles and chickenpox)
- cytomegalovirus, which doesn’t affect healthy people but is the leading cause of blindness in people with AIDS
Home remedies can be an easy, inexpensive, and effective solution to reducing the symptoms and curing uncomfortable eye infections. These remedies work best for infections caused by debris or allergies, but can also work with viral and bacterial infections.
Tea bags can work to soothe the eye and reduce redness and swelling. Typically, black tea is used but other types of tea such as green or white may be used. Start by boiling the tea bags in hot water. Allow the bags to cool and place one bag the affected eye for 10 to 15 minutes. You can use the tea made by the bags and water as an eyewash and wash your eye out in the lukewarm mixture before applying the teabag compress.
Chamomile is known for its soothing and calmative properties. Boil 2 chamomile teabags with 3 cups of water. Allow to cool and apply the chamomile tea to the eye – with freshly washed hands – 3 to 4 times a day. You can also dip a clean washcloth in the tea and apply to the eye as a compress for 15 minutes.
Honey has many antibacterial properties and can help to kill the harmful bacteria in the eye. There are several different ways honey can be used to treat eye infections. The first way is to mix equal parts honey with boiled water. Mix the honey and water thoroughly and allow to cool. Using a clean washcloth or cotton balls, apply the solution to the eye. You can use the cloth of cotton balls as a compress and leave on the eye for 15 minutes.
Old Eye Bath
This particular home remedy can be done to strengthen the eyes. It also helps in restoring the natural expression and sparkle to the eyes. For this, fill a basin or sink with cold water and dip your face in it, blink eyes for around 5 seconds. Remove face from the sink and repeat the whole process three or four times.
Discontinue Contact Lens Use
During an infection, the use of contact lenses should be discontinued. You can ask the eye doctor to confirm how long you should discontinue the use. The doctor will also advice if the lenses, solution and lens case should be discarded. Non-disposable lenses should be cleaned thoroughly before re-using them.
Coriander seeds are said to have properties which help in reducing swelling caused by stye. Water in which coriander seeds have been soaked for an hour, should be used to wash the eye.