Eye Infection – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Eye infection

An eye infection is a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection of the eye. Many individual areas of the eye can be affected, and symptoms and effects vary depending on the location and type of infection.

What is an eye infection?

Many viruses , bacteria , parasites and fungi that can invade the human body are also able to attack the surface of the eye , or even penetrate deeper into the organ.

Depending on the infestation, the form of the eye infection can vary greatly. The most common eye infection is the viral infection. In most cases, it affects the inside of the eyelids or the inner corners of the eye’s surface. But blood vessels, retina, optic nerve or eye fluid can also be affected. Fungi mostly affect the blood supply to the retina.

Since the eye is a complex organ with many individual components, the possibilities for specific infections are widespread. Eye infections are most common in young children. These infections are also contagious in many cases.


There can be numerous causes of an eye infection. The most common causes include histoplasmosis , chlamydia and gonorrhea , herpes virus.

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection of the lungs that affects many people at least once in their lifetime, but often without serious side effects. Even years after the fungus has been infected, it can migrate into the retina and cause damage there. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are common STDs . Infection of the eyes can either occur through direct contact with the infected genitals or through rubbing with the hands.

Herpes can cause an eye infection similar to chlamydia and gonorrhea. However, the danger to the eyes and vision of the person concerned is still a lot more difficult to assess. Up to 15 percent of people who get an eye infection caused by herpes complain of partial vision loss.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

In most cases, an eye infection is associated with very unpleasant discomfort and symptoms and can significantly reduce the quality of life of the person affected. In the case of an eye infection, patients primarily suffer from inflammation in the eye itself. The eyes are clearly reddened and can also be painful or itchy.

The itching often increases when the eyes are rubbed or when the eyes are put under too much strain. Furthermore, the eye infection also leads to the formation of a crust on the edges of the eyes and thus to the eyes sticking together. These symptoms can be more severe, especially in the morning or before going to bed.

The eyes themselves are swollen and affected by pain when there is an eye infection. The pain often spreads to the head or ears. Furthermore, if left untreated, an eye infection can also negatively limit and reduce the eyesight of the affected person.

In the worst case, this can also lead to complete blindness . The immune system of the affected person is generally weakened by this infection , making the affected person susceptible to various diseases. The everyday life of those affected is also negatively influenced by this infection.

Diagnosis & History

Eye infections trigger relatively non-specific symptoms. Even after precise laboratory tests, the diagnoses are often not very clear.

A yellowish or brownish discharge from the eye is often a sign of a bacterial infestation. These bacteria may have entered the eye through feces, pet dander, smoke, or other scents. Itchy and swollen eyes are often a symptom of allergic infections. An infection that looks less infected (more pink than red) often indicates a viral infection.

Blurred vision and an altered perception of light is common with eye infections; usually caused by the excreted fluid. Primary care should be taken in diagnosis to rule out other diseases that produce similar symptoms, such as glaucoma , uveitis , and keratitis .


An eye infection can lead to inflammation of the eye, which can also fester. A distinction must be made between various diseases, all of which have similar complications. In the eye, the conjunctiva is particularly affected by inflammation. From there, the infection can spread and spread to other structures in the eye, such as the cornea or the eyelid.

The eyelid may misalign and rotate inward (entropion), causing a foreign body sensation. In addition, the eyelashes rub against the eyeball (trichiasis), so that the symptoms worsen. A dangerous clouding can occur on the cornea, which initially impairs vision and, in the worst case, can lead to blindness .

In addition, chronic inflammation can lead to the formation of scar tissue (pannus) in the area of ​​the cornea and conjunctiva, so that vision is also impaired here. The pannus can also occur in the area of ​​the tear ducts. As a result, the eye is not properly lubricated and dries out, making it painful and more susceptible to infection.

In general, an infection of the eye is caused by various pathogens. One of the most common consequences that develops from this is a weakening of the immune system and thus an increase in the risk of another pathogen infecting the eye, the so-called superinfection . This makes treating the eye even more difficult and increases the risk of blindness.

Treatment & Therapy

For allergic eye infections, cooling helps with acute symptoms. In worse cases, anti-inflammatory drugs may be necessary. If the allergy occurs more frequently, antihistamines should be taken. Bacterial infections usually resolve without treatment.

Antibiotics or eye drops are only necessary if the infection does not go away after three days. However, prompt use of antibiotics can speed up healing of the eye infection by over a day. A particular exception to bacterial eye infection is chlamydial infection. This STD is the leading cause of blindness and will not heal without the use of antibiotics. Viral infections also usually heal within a few days.

One possible treatment for eye infections caused by histoplasmosis is cauterization of the affected tissue. This repeated etching or burning of the tissue prevents the fungus from continuing to cause uncontrolled damage itself. However, damage that has already been done cannot be healed.

Outlook & Forecast

As a rule, an eye infection heals without consequences within a few days. The prerequisite for this is immediate treatment of the inflammation with eye drops, which contain an antibiotic or cortisone , depending on the causative pathogen . Occasionally, spontaneous healing is possible without medication. If an eye infection with severe symptoms such as pus, swelling and redness is not treated, it can spread inside the eye and cause permanent vision damage.

The prognosis should also be cautious if the eye infection is due to an immune deficiency caused by another disease. In these cases, healing depends on whether the underlying disease can be successfully combated or at least properly adjusted. The behavior of the patient can also have a decisive influence on the healing process.

Poor hygiene, such as not washing your hands before administering the eye drops or constantly rubbing your eyes, spread the germs, causing the infection to flare up again and again. In addition, the eye drops must be placed in the eye several times a day as instructed by the doctor in order to ensure their effectiveness.

The use of contact lenses during an eye infection jeopardizes the success of the treatment, as does staying in dusty rooms and exposure to strong sunlight or light. Consistently adhering to the therapy recommendations and protecting the eyes improves the chances of recovery considerably.


The best prevention against most types of eye infections is caution. Most infections are brought about through the hands in the eyes. When dealing with infected people, care should be taken not to pick up possible carriers with your hands and spread them on your own face. Of course, this also applies to sexual intercourse with infected people. Washing utensils such as towels should generally not be shared.


One of the aims of aftercare is to prevent possible complications of an eye infection. However, this severe form of the disease is the exception. Risks only arise if the eye is severely affected. Redness and pus then spread in the eye. Doctors prescribe antibiotics to prevent permanent damage.

A final check-up will then take place. The doctor sometimes also examines the retina. A blood test can provide information about the spread of the disease. Furthermore, aftercare aims to support the patient in everyday life in coping with life.

This is not necessary because the eye infection subsides within a short time. Sometimes, however, causes are investigated. Especially in the case of frequent infections, the treating doctor points out that hygienic standards must be observed. Patients should never touch their eyes with unwashed hands. This is how bacteria and viruses find their way to the organ of vision.

An eye infection is usually treated by an ophthalmologist on an outpatient basis. In the majority of cases, there is no follow-up care because the medication is completed within a few days. Complaints no longer exist. The patient resumes his usual life without any restrictions.

You can do that yourself

If a severe infection has occurred in the eye area, treatment by an ophthalmologist is essential. Prompt treatment can quickly relieve eye symptoms. If the eye infection is serious, anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat it. Bacterial infections usually do not require medical treatment. Thanks to the human body’s ability to heal itself, a bacterial infection can clear up without treatment.

In order to make the time until recovery more pleasant, the use of harmless but effective home remedies is recommended . An effective remedy for relieving eye irritation and healing infections is what is known as eyebright tea. Drinking tea can promote healing from within.

If the eye infection is accompanied by severe swelling of the eyelids, treatment with fennel is a sensible option. The fennel has a calming, mild and decongestant effect and can also be used on children without any problems. A well-known home remedy for treating eye infections is chamomile tea . You can disinfect and moisten the area around your eyes with a saline solution from the pharmacy so that the eye infection can be relieved quickly.

However, if the home remedies do not provide any relief after a long time, those affected should consult a doctor and have the problem treated by a specialist.

Lisa Newlon
 | Website

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.