Our world is filled with tiny microscopic organisms called bacteria and viruses, and, despite what many think, they are not all bad. Some of these organisms aid in digestion, respiration, and circulatory functions. However, there are others, known as pathogens, which can lead to disease and infection should they make it past the body’s immune system.
We encounter sources of these pathogens in our everyday lives, from doorknobs to handshakes to the air around us, there is no shortage of potential carriers for infection, and when these infections occur in the eye, they can lead to bothersome symptoms such as watering, redness, drainage, and even more dangerous complications if left untreated. Fortunately, eye infections are also very common, treatable, and usually have distinct and recognizable characteristics, allowing them to be quickly spotted and addressed. Here are a few of their most common forms:
Common Types of Eye Infections
The delicate inner-workings of the eyes are protected by multiple layers, and it is in these layers where infections typically occur. The first line of defense for your eyes are the lashes and lids. The skin and hair follicles around your eyelids can become infected while providing protection. The second line of defense is your conjunctiva. This thin membrane acts as a barrier between your eye and the outside world. It also produces lubricants for the eye. It is vulnerable to pathogens because of its exposure to the elements. The infections most likely to occur in these areas include:
Blepharitis – Blepharitis is an infection of the eyelid resulting in inflammation. It may cause itching, burning, and vision difficulties. Antibiotics or steroids can help resolve this infection. However, the condition will often clear on its own given proper care and hygiene.
Stye – A stye is a painful bump along the lash line that results from bacteria invading the hair follicle or oil gland openings. Treatment is not often needed, as these typically resolve on their own. However, home remedies such as warm compresses can ease symptoms such as pain and redness until the infection has cleared. Some require medications or even drainage if they persist.
Conjunctivitis – Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye, is the result of a virus or bacteria entering the thin mucus membrane that coats the eye. This infection causes redness and discharge that can cause the eyelashes to stick together. It can also be highly contagious, so it is important to take precautions to prevent it from spreading to others..
Treatment and Prevention of Eye Infections
Keeping the immune system healthy is the best way to combat any infection. A good diet, sleeping schedule, and exercise are key to helping your body efficiently fight off infection, as it can destroy pathogens very early on, before symptoms of infection even arise. Cleanliness and hygiene are also vital to prevention. Keeping the hands, face, and hair clean can remove bacteria from the surface of the skin and keep it away from the eyes. Contact lenses, in particular, are frequently handled and then placed in direct contact with the eyes, making them a major infection hazard. Proper cleaning and care is therefore critical for all lens wearers.
If you do contract an eye infection, see an ophthalmologist to determine if treatments such as antibiotic eye drops, ointments, pills, or compresses are needed to help your body fight off the infection quickly. And, if you notice an infection is affecting your vision or treatment is not working as it should, set up an appointment with Eye Specialists of Louisiana. While these issues are generally minor leaving them untreated can lead to complications down the road.