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Eye Infections

Exposure to viral or bacterial infections can cause eyes to become red, swollen and watery. Knowing what to look out for and taking care of your eyes will help you to prevent much discomfort.

What are eye infections?

Eye infections are eye diseases caused by bacterial, viral or other microbiological agents that cause your eyes to become red and swollen.

Conjunctivitis (pink or red eye) is the most common eye infection. It is an inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the outer lining of the eyeball that extends to the inner surface of the eyelids. It is usually due to an allergic reaction, or a viral or bacterial infection.

A sty is another common condition that occurs when an infection occurs in the hair follicle of your eyelashes. It normally looks like a small pusfilled boil or a pimple.

If the infection of your eyelid is more severe, the condition is known as preseptal cellulitis, or an eyelid infection.

Keratitis is a serious eye infection of the cornea. It may develop very quickly and can lead to ulceration, scarring and loss of vision.

Eye with conjunctivitis - Singapore National Eye Centre

Causes of eye infections

  • Improper contact lens care is the most common cause of this condition
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Allergies
  • Chemical entering the eye
  • Foreign objects in the eye
  • Trauma to the eye

Symptoms of eye infections

You may experience one or more of the following symptoms :

  • Persistent itching
  • Flaking of the eyelids
  • Discomfort of the eyes
  • Blurring of vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye discharge
  • Eye pain
  • Swelling of the eyes or eyelids, and the surrounding tissue

Prevention of eye infections

Eye infections usually occur because of contact with viruses or bacteria. To prevent these harmful agents from entering your eye, follow the guidelines below :

  • Wash your hands before and after touching your eyes or face.
  • Avoid sharing eye make-up and change eye make-up every six months.
  • If you have an existing eye infection, avoid using any eye make-up or wearing contact lenses until the infection clears up.
  • Practise good contact lens care and never share contact lens equipment, containers, or solutions.
  • Do not share towels, linens, pillows, or handkerchiefs.
  • Wear eye protection when in the sun, wind, heat, or cold to prevent eye irritation.
  • Wear safety glasses when working with chemicals.
  • Avoid exposing your eyes to contaminated water.

Treatment of eye infections

You should see your eye doctor to determine the cause of your eye infection and get advice on the best course of treatment.

In some cases of conjunctivitis, non-steroidal anti-infl ammatory medications and antihistamines may be prescribed. Some patients with persistent allergic conjunctivitis may also require topical steroid drops.

Eye infection cases need treatment with antibiotic eyedrops, especially when non-viral causes are involved. Cornea infections or ulcers may even require hospitalisation.