Tell-tale signs of an eye infection

Thursday, 12 May 2016
Tell-tale signs of an eye infection

Eye infections are a lot more common than you would imagine and they have many different causes. If you use contact lenses, you might be particularly wary of this health issue. After all, just by wearing contacts, you are effectively taking extra care of your eyesight every single day so make sure to do it to the best of your ability.

Keep reading to find out how you can spot the tell-tale signs of infection; the solutions are simple and precautions minimal so there are no reasons to panic or excuses not to be vigilant.

What causes eye infections?

Also called conjunctivitis, this condition causes inflammation and redness in the layer of tissue that covers your eye called the conjunctiva. In order to recognise the symptoms, it’s important to understand what causes the infections.

There are three main types of infection you should know about. Infective conjunctivitis is triggered by viruses or bacteria, while irritant conjunctivitis can be caused by things like shampoo, stray eyelashes, smoke or fumes. The other main category is allergic conjunctivitis, and this can be brought on by adverse reactions to pollen, animals or dust mites. It can also be caused by contact lenses or exposure to eye drops or certain other chemicals.   

What signs should you look out for?

The symptoms you experience will depend on the cause of your infection, but the most common are redness of the eyes and a yellow, green or white discharge that can crust over your eyelashes. This discharge is called rheum and it is simply a mixture of mucin (watery mucus from the conjunctiva) and meibum (an oily substance that in between blinks, keeps your eye lubricated). This build-up tends to be particularly noticeable after you’ve been sleeping. The redness is caused by the tiny blood vessels in your conjunctiva widening, while the discharge is a result of inflammation of the glands responsible for producing tears.

If you have infective conjunctivitis, you might also experience a burning sensation or feel like there is grit in your eye, and you might have a swollen lymph node just behind your ear.

Alternatively, if you have allergic conjunctivitis, you may find your eyes become itchy, and if it’s triggered by eye drops, your eyelids may become sore and dry. Meanwhile, if you notice small spots developing on the inside of your eyelids, you might be allergic to your contact lenses.

When should you seek medical advice?

The vast majority of eye infections are nothing to worry about and they clear up within just a couple of weeks. You can speed up your recovery with the help of some simple self-help techniques. For example, you should stop wearing your contact lenses until all the symptoms have gone and make sure you resist the temptation to rub your eyes. To ease your symptoms, you could place a cool compress across your eyes. If you have allergic conjunctivitis, you should also try to avoid contact with the allergen and you may benefit from taking medicines such as antihistamines.

However, if you have pain in your eyes, an increased sensitivity to light, intense redness or disturbed vision, you should book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to check if there is a more serious cause behind your eye infection and suggest suitable treatment if necessary.

As a contact lens wearer, you can reduce your risk of getting an infection in the first place by following effective hygiene practices, and if you don’t want to have to clean your contacts, you could opt for daily disposables like our 1-Day Acuvue Moist lenses or our Focus Dailies.
If you have any questions about eye health, you can get in touch with our optician at:
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