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Symptoms, causes, and treatments for Eye Infections
Eye Infections (Pinkeye)
Symptoms of Pinkeye
Pinkeye, which doctors also call “conjunctivitis,” is a symptom of several illnesses. However, one of the most common causes of pinkeye is an infection of the conjunctiva, or the white part of the eye.
Infectious conjunctivitis is caused by several kinds of bacteria or viruses. It's extremely contagious and should be treated with caution to avoid infecting others.
Other, non-infectious causes of pinkeye include allergies (like hay fever) or irritants (i.e., smog or chemical exposure). If you suffer from allergies, your eyes may exhibit some of the same symptoms as an eye infection.
General conjunctivitis symptoms, regardless of the underlying cause, include:
- Abnormal tear production
- Burning sensation
- Discharge from your eyes
- Eyes and eyelids feel gritty
- Watery eyes
Bacterial conjunctivitis is a particularly severe eye infection and should be treated as soon as possible. Symptoms specific to bacterial eye infections include:
- Changes to your vision
- Severe eye pain
- Thick, greenish discharge from your eyes
Causes of Pinkeye
Bacterial conjunctivitis can be caused by:
- Haemophilus influenzae, a bacterial infection that can also cause pneumonia
- Staph bacteria
Viral conjunctivitis can be caused by:
- Herpes virus
Other possible causes of pinkeye include environmental triggers that, if left untreated, will progress into an infection. Additional risk factors for eye infections include severe dry eye, excess exposure to wind, chemicals, and smoke.
Should I Be Worried?
Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, which should resolve the condition after a few days. However, it’s best to see a doctor immediately to confirm that the underlying infection isn’t bacterial, which can cause serious complications and long-term damage to your vision if left untreated.
Unfortunately, viral conjunctivitis is a lot like the common cold: there’s no specific treatment or medication to prevent the virus, so it’ll only leave your system after a certain amount of time has passed. Viral infections of the eye last upwards of five days.
Generally, if you’re experiencing any eye pain, changes to your vision, or if you wear contacts and are exhibiting symptoms of an eye infection, see a doctor immediately to rule out more serious infections.
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Eye Infection Prevention Tips
Consider these tips to help prevent an eye infection:
- Don’t touch or rub your eyes.. Seriously. If you picked up bacteria or a virus on your hands and rub your eyes, you’re just asking for conjunctivitis.
- Wash your hands. This one’s a pretty classic recommendation for preventing illness. But if you really, desperately have to rub your eyes, at least make sure your hands are clean.
- Talk with a doctor about your contacts. They may be causing irritation and creating an environment prone to bacterial infection if not regularly cleaned and changed. Follow your optometrist’s recommendations for your specific prescription.