What Are Some Common Eye Infections?

Reviewed on 11/17/2020

What Are Eye Infections?

Conjunctivitis (eye membrane infection), keratitis (cornea infection), corneal ulcers, styes, blepharitis (eyelid infection) and uveitis (infection of the eye's middle layer) are all possible types of eye infection
Conjunctivitis (eye membrane infection), keratitis (cornea infection), corneal ulcers, styes, blepharitis (eyelid infection) and uveitis (infection of the eye’s middle layer) are all possible types of eye infection

An eye infection occurs when bacteria, viruses, or other agents infect the eye. Eye infection can affect the eyelids, cornea, and conjunctiva.

Some common eye infections include:

What Are Symptoms of Eye Infections?

Symptoms of eye infections depend on the type of infection. 

Symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • Eyes appear pink or red
  • Eyes weep or ooze a gooey liquid
  • Itching or burning eyes
  • Eyes become stuck shut, especially when first waking up

Symptoms of keratitis include:

  • Pain, which can be mild to severe
  • Tearing
  • Eye discharge
  • Eye redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • In severe cases, the cornea may appear gray or have white to gray areas

Symptoms of stye include:

  • A red and painful lump on the edge of the eyelid 
  • May look like a pimple
  • Usually develops over a few days
  • Tearing 
  • Eyelid pain and swelling

Symptoms of blepharitis include:

  • Red, swollen, itchy eyelids
  • Gritty or burning feeling in the eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Crusty, matted eyelashes in the morning
  • Flaking or scaling of eyelid skin

Symptoms of corneal ulcers include:

  • Eye redness 
  • Severe eye pain and soreness 
  • Feeling something is in the eye
  • Tearing
  • Pus or other discharge
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • White spot on the cornea that may be visible when looking in the mirror

Symptoms of uveitis include:

  • Red eye
  • Eye pain
  • Discomfort looking at bright lights
  • Constricted pupil 
  • Blurred vision
  • Floaters 


What causes dry eyes? See Answer

What Causes Eye Infections?

The cause of eye infections depends on the type of infection. 

  • Causes of conjunctivitis include bacteria, viruses, allergic reactions, or irritants
  • Causes of keratitis include bacteria, viruses, contaminated water, eye injury, contaminated contact lenses
  • Causes of stye include bacterial infection of the oil glands in the eyelid or eyelashes 
  • Causes of blepharitis include bacteria
  • Causes of corneal ulcers include bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, abrasions or burns, dry eye syndrome, Bell’s palsy
  • Causes of uveitis include viruses such as herpes, injury, or autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus 

Use of contact lenses can be a risk factor for some eye infections, including keratitis and corneal ulcers. 

How Are Eye Infections Diagnosed?

Eye infections are often diagnosed with a patient’s history and an examination of the eye with an ophthalmoscope, which is a lighted instrument used to examine the eye. 

Other tests to diagnose eye infection may include: 

  • A special dye called fluorescein to light up and check for damage to the cornea
  • Examination of the eye with a slit lamp
  • Culture of pus or discharge coming from the eye
  • Tissue sample to identify the infection

What Is the Treatment for Eye Infections?

Eye infections are mainly treated with medications. 

Treatment for conjunctivitis includes:

  • May go away on its own without treatment
  • Some types of conjunctivitis can be treated
  • Conjunctivitis caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotic eye drops or gels
  • Itching and irritation caused by other problems can be treated with eye drops used to treat allergies

Treatment for keratitis includes:

  • Antibiotic, antifungal, or antiviral eye drops
  • Steroid eye drops

Treatment for stye includes: 

  • May go away on its own without treatment
  • Warm, wet compress on the stye
  • Do not squeeze or pop a stye
  • Avoid wearing eye makeup or contact lenses until the stye is healed
  • Antibiotic cream or ointment
  • Draining the stye (done by a medical professional)

Treatment for blepharitis includes:

  • Warm, wet pressure on the eyes 
  • Gently rub the eyelids after putting warm, wet pressure on the eyes
  • Wash the eyelids with plain warm water or warm water with a drop of baby shampoo on a clean washcloth, gauze pad, or cotton swab to gently cleanse crusty material off the eyelashes and eyelids
  • Antibiotic cream or ointment applied to the eyelids
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Topical steroids

Treatment for corneal ulcers includes:

  • Antibiotic, antifungal, or antiviral eye drops
  • Oral antifungal medicine
  • Injections of medication near the eye
  • Steroid eye drops (use of steroids is controversial as it may worsen infection)
  • Anti-inflammatory eye drops 
  • Pain medication 
  • Corneal transplant in severe cases

Treatment for uveitis includes: 

  • Steroids 
  • Eye drops
  • Injections into the eye (for posterior uveitis)
  • Pills
  • Eye drops for pain
  • Other medicines to treat the uveitis or the condition causing it

What Are Complications of Eye Infections?

Complications of eye infections include:

  • Vision loss
  • Damage to the retina
  • Scar tissue on the eye 
  • Impaired eye movement
  • Vision problems
  • Headaches
  • Facial numbness.
  • Meningitis: inflammation of the lining of the brain

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Reviewed on 11/17/2020