So, you’ve woken up with a painful, swelling, itching or reddened eye — perhaps all four if you’re lucky. It’s likely you have an eye infection, which occurs when harmful microorganisms (i.e. bacteria, fungi and viruses) invade your eyeball and/or it’s surrounding area.
Eye infections can be one of three things: Viral, bacterial or fungal. No matter what type you have, if you suspect an eye infection, you should visit your eye doctor. Self-diagnosis may delay effective treatment and can be potentially harmful to your vision.
Symptoms of an eye infection
It’s typically hard to miss an eye infection, however, if you’re unsure you can check for these symptoms:
- Red eyes
- Eye discharge
- Watery eyes
- Dry eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Swollen eyes
- Blurry vision
If you have any of these symptoms, check in with your doctor or optometrist as soon as possible.
Common causes of an infected eye
The causes of an infected eye range in severity and can include:
- Conjunctivitis/pink eye: When blood vessels in the thin outermost membrane surrounding your eyeball become infected by a virus or bacteria.
- Keratitis: Infection of the cornea (the clear layer that covers your pupil and iris).
- Endophthalmitis: Severe inflammation of the inside of your eye due to a bacterial or fungal infection (typically resulting from candida fungal infections).
- Blepharitis: Inflammation of the eyelids.
- Sty: A bump that develops from an oil gland located on the outer edges of your eyelids.
- Uveitis: Inflammation of the central layer of your eyeball (the uvea) due to infection.
- Cellulitis: Infection of the eye tissue by an injury or due to bacteria.
- Ocular herpes: An infection of the eye from the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1).
What to do about an eye infection
Keep in mind that if you wear contact lenses, you should not wear them until you’ve visited a doctor for a diagnosis. Be sure to wear your glasses until your doctor says it’s OK to resume lens wearing.
When you visit your eye doctor, they will help determine the type of eye infection you have in order to prescribe the appropriate treatment for you.