What Kinds of Infections Are Found in the Eyes?

Reviewed on 2/14/2022
Man wearing a face mask and placing right hand over his eye
Types of eye infections include conjunctivitis (“pink eye”), keratitis, stye (“hordeolum”), blepharitis, corneal ulcer, and uveitis. Symptoms and treatment will vary depending on the type of infection.

Bacteria, viruses, or other agents can infect the eyes and can affect the cornea, conjunctiva, and eyelids.

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

  • Conjunctivitis (“pink eye”): infection of the conjunctiva
    • Causes of conjunctivitis include bacteria, viruses, allergic reactions, or irritants
  • Keratitis: Inflammation of the cornea 
    • Causes of keratitis include bacteria, viruses, contaminated water, eye injury, contaminated contact lenses
  • Stye (“hordeolum”): painful, red bumps under the eyelid or at the base of the eyelashes
    • Causes of stye include bacterial infection of the oil glands in the eyelid or eyelashes 
  • Blepharitis: inflammation at the edge of the eyelids 
  • Corneal ulcer: open sore on the cornea
    • Causes of corneal ulcers include bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, abrasions or burns, dry eye syndrome, Bell’s palsy
  • Uveitis: inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye 

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 a 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 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 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 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 uveitis include:
    • Red eye
    • Eye pain
    • Discomfort looking at bright lights
    • Constricted pupil 
    • Blurred vision
    • Floaters 


What causes dry eyes? See Answer

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 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 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 keratitis includes:
    • Antibiotic, antifungal, or antiviral eye drops
    • Steroid eye drops
  • 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 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

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Reviewed on 2/14/2022
Image Source: iStock Images