The eye is a fragile organ. A seemingly minor eye problem can have serious consequences if left untreated. There are many types of eye infections, each of which can bring its own set of symptoms.

Viruses and bacteria, more rarely parasites and fungi, are responsible for eye infections. The most common cause is the virus, which usually manifests itself inside the eyelid or on the eye's surface.

How do you know if you have an eye infection? An optometrist must determine the type of infection you have to prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Sign #1: Red Eyes

Red eyes are a common symptom of conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva). They are often one of the first signs of a potential eye infection. Blood vessels dilate due to an infection, causing the ordinarily white eye area to appear red.

Red eyes are rarely the only symptom of an infection. Several other symptoms may accompany them and require a quick consultation.

Sign #2: Light Sensitivity

Light sensitivity (photophobia) can also be a symptom of an eye infection. It can be a sign of corneal damage, so it is essential to consult a doctor to determine the cause of this sensitivity.

Sign #3: Dry Eyes

Many infections can cause dry eyes. In fact, an infection can decrease tear production or increase tear evaporation. Discover our 10 tips to help relieve dry eyes.

Sign #4: Eye Pain

In the case of an infection, eye pain usually manifests itself as irritation of the eye's surface or the sensation of having a foreign body in the eye. It can be intense in the case of an acute corneal infection, such as an ulcer. The pain may be in addition to the symptoms of red eyes, sensitivity to light or blurred vision.

Sign #5: Swollen Eyelids

A less common infection symptom, eyelid swelling, can result from a bacterial infection of a gland at the base of the eyelashes, commonly called a sty.

Sign #6: Teary eyes

The irritation and eye pain caused by an infection stimulate more tear production. As a result, the eyes become wetter, and it is not uncommon for tears to flow down the cheeks.

If the tear pathway becomes blocked, it can also lead to watery eyes. Be aware that a blockage can also lead to infection of the tear sac (dacryocystitis) and spread to the tissues around the eye (periorbital cellulitis).

Sign #7: Blurred or Decreased Vision

If you feel that the sharpness or clarity of your vision is affected by an infection, it is important to consult your optometrist. Blurred vision is often a sign of a more serious infection, such as keratitis (cornea infection).

Sign #8: Itching

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids that can sometimes become infected. It often causes itching or a burning sensation in the eyelids. Dry eyes can also be responsible for this itching.

An eye exam will help diagnose the cause, but you can apply a cold washcloth to provide some relief in the meantime.

How to Prevent Eye Infections?

Good hygiene is the best way to prevent eye infections.

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before handling contact lenses.
  • Avoid touching your eyes.
  • Remove your makeup before going to sleep.
  • Don't keep your contact lenses on while you sleep.
  • Change your contact lenses regularly, as recommended by your optometrist.
  • Use only sterile solutions to clean your contact lenses and avoid tap water.
  • Change your contact lens case several times a year.
  • Clean towels and bedding often.

If you think you have one or more symptoms of eye infection, see your optometrist for an eye exam at the nearest IRIS store.