Your life and eyes 2 min read

How to avoid eye infections

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Getting an eye infection can be very uncomfortable and even painful. They occur when harmful bacteria, funghi or viruses get into your eye or the surrounding areas. Fortunately, most bacterial eye infections can usually be effectively treated with eye drops or ointments.

It is important that if you suspect an eye infection, you should visit your doctor or optician as soon as you can to receive the necessary treatment.

Avoiding eye infections is possible if you take the right precautions, and if you know the symptoms to look out for.

Common symptoms of eye infections

Many symptoms of eye infections are ones that you may already recognise. Different infections can cause different reactions, and they can affect different parts of your eye. This includes the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea, and the thin membrane lining the outer eye and inner eyelids, known as the conjunctiva.

A diagram of the eye showing the conjunctiva, cornea, lens and more

Symptoms of eye infections can include red eyes, watery or dry eyes, itchiness or pain. You might also experience discharge, light sensitivity or blurry vision. It is important that you try to avoid self-diagnosing yourself; it is much easier and quicker to see your doctor or optician for a professional opinion.

Types of eye infections

There are 3 main types of eye infections; viral, fungal and bacterial. One of the most common eye infections you will come across is conjunctivitis, which can be either bacterial or viral. Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and symptoms usually include a discharge that sticks to your eyelashes, as well as a burning or itching sensation and eyes feeling gritty.

Infection can sometimes be an underlying cause of a corneal ulcer. A corneal ulcer resembles an abscess on the eye, and if left untreated it can lead to more serious problems. It is the result of a localised infection of the cornea, usually due to a bacterial infection.

Contact lens wearers can be particularly susceptible to irritation that can lead to an ulcer.

Treating eye infections

It is important that you don’t leave an eye infection untreated as it may lead to more severe eye health problems.

If you do happen to get an eye infection, your doctor may take a sample from the affected area to help determine the type of infection you have. For example, an antibiotic may be able to target the type of bacteria that is causing the eye infection. Many viral eye infections will resolve themselves, or you may require antiviral medicine.

Young girl using eye drops to treat an eye infection

How to prevent eye infections

Contact lens wearers are generally at higher risk of eye infections in general; this is because wearing contact lenses requires much more contact with your eyes.

There are some simple precautions you can take in order to avoid eye infections. You may be able to minimise the likelihood of catching common eye infections by avoiding rubbing your eyes, and by ensuring you wash your hands frequently. This is especially the case if you are applying and removing contact lenses. You should also aim to keep your towels and bed linen clean and fresh.

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