Eye infections are very common. Some are easily treated and do not cause lasting harm, while others are more serious and require immediate treatment. You can find more information below.

About eye infections

Eye infections are usually caused by bacteria, virus, or infection. Inflammation of the conjunctiva, cornea, and edges of the eyelids is most common. If left untreated, they can cause permanent damage to the eye, which can lead to decreased vision. Environmental stimuli such as foreign bodies in the eye, drafts or cigarette smoke can also cause eye infections.

It is important that eye infections are examined early by an ophthalmologist and treated according to the cause. In this way, symptoms can be alleviated quickly and the disease is prevented from progressing and in the worst case causing permanent damage.

How does the eye work?

Our vision allows us to be aware of our surroundings. Eighty percent of everything we learn is through our vision. Your eye works similarly to a camera. When you look at an object, the light reflected from the object enters the pupil of the eyes and is focused through the optical components inside the eye.

The front of the eye consists of the cornea, iris, dark spot and lens, and focuses the image on the retina. The retina is the light sensitive membrane that covers the back of the eye. This membrane is made up of millions of nerve cells that come together at the back of the eye to form a large nerve called the optic nerve.

When light enters the eye, it is focused on a spot on the macula, a small area in the center of the retina at the back of the eye. The macula center is responsible for detailed vision, allowing you to see fine details and color, read and recognize faces.

When light stimulates nerve cells in the retina, messages are sent along the optic nerve to the brain. The optic nerves of the two eyes join the brain. The brain uses information from each optic nerve to combine the vision of the two eyes, which allows you to see an image.

What are eye infections?

1- Eye inflammation

The eye should avoid harmful effects such as pathogens and environmental stimuli during the day. Protective mechanisms such as the eyelids, the constant scavenging of tear fluid, and the conjunctiva are not always sufficient to protect the visual apparatus with its many complex tissues and structures.

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If the immune system is overloaded, it reacts with inflammation, which can have many different causes. Common infections with bacteria or viruses mainly affect the parts of the eye that come into direct contact with the environment, namely the lids and conjunctiva.

Depending on their severity, they can also spread to deeper structures such as the iris or choroid. Another cause of inflammation in the anterior region of the eye is foreign bodies entering the eye and environmental stimuli such as bright sunlight, smoke or drafts.

2- Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is the most common inflammatory eye disease. Among eye infections, conjunctivitis is caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, allergens and a wide variety of environmental stimuli. This includes bright light, UV rays, cold, exhaust gases, sieve work and chlorine in the swimming pool. Other causes include tear film disorders, eyelid closure disorders, and foreign bodies.

Excessive strain on the eye can also cause conjunctivitis. A serious underlying disease can also be the reason behind the banal conjunctivitis. Therefore, the doctor should always clarify the triggers of the disease, because the treatment depends on the cause.

Whether there is a risk of infection depends on the specific cause of the conjunctivitis. When infected with a virus or bacteria, there is an infectious conjunctivitis.

A conjunctivitis typically presents with red, itchy, burning, and watery eyes. Many patients have a feeling of grit with each opening and closing of the eye and when rubbed. The conjunctiva is red and the entire eyelid may swell. Unlike some other eye infections, there is no visual disturbance.

Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with eye drops or eye ointments containing antibiotics. Artificial tear fluid can relieve symptoms. However, the most important treatment is to eliminate the triggering cause. For example, glasses quickly cure conjunctivitis caused by poor eyesight. Unless conjunctivitis is a sign of a serious underlying disease, it usually resolves without consequences.

3- Corneal inflammation (keratitis)

Inflammation of the cornea (keratitis) is less common, but more dangerous among eye infections than conjunctivitis. The causes and complaints are similar, since the conjunctiva is almost always involved in inflammation of the cornea. Then a condition of keratoconjunctivitis may occur. The eyes are red, those affected complain of burning, pain and foreign body sensation. Unlike conjunctivitis, there may be visual disturbance.

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Ulcus cornea is a feared condition. This is a corneal ulcer caused by bacteria that can dissolve the entire cornea in a short time. Pathogens often penetrate after injuries to the cornea. The infection should be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible in an eye clinic, otherwise there is a risk of permanent vision loss.

In recent years, the number of fungal infections of the cornea has increased significantly. In the case of fungal infections, the affected corneal area must be surgically removed, which can be problematic if the deep layers are already affected. Therefore, early treatment is very important.

The herpes virus can also affect the cornea and possibly cause permanent damage. The disease should be treated as soon as possible with drugs in the form of drops that inhibit the growth of viruses. Herpes infections of the cornea and eyelids tend to occur repeatedly. In such cases, in addition to drug therapy, the cornea is removed.

If corneal inflammation is not treated for a longer period of time, permanent damage to the cornea of ​​the eye can occur. Scarring may occur. Pain, limited vision, and even blindness can be the result of corneal inflammation.

4- Inflammation of the iris

Inflammation of the iris is extremely rare among eye infections. Those affected suffer from eye pain, are afraid of light and see worse than normal. The iris usually changes color and the eyes respond more slowly to light.

Inflammation may occur due to infection. This immunological inflammation of the iris often occurs after infections with borrelia (infection by ticks), chlamydia or herpes viruses. Injuries to the eye can also cause this condition.

Iridocyclitis is a common concomitant symptom of other diseases in which reactions of the immune system are causally involved. These include chronic polyarthritis and sarcoidosis, commonly known as rheumatism. If the ophthalmologist detects iridocyclitis, an internist should definitely clarify the causes. During treatment, the doctor immobilizes the iris with pupil dilating medication ( mydriatics ) so that it can heal and visual function does not deteriorate in the long run.

Anti-inflammatory agents and antibiotics for bacterial infections complete the treatment. Antibiotic therapy should be given at high enough doses and long enough to kill pathogens completely and avoid recurrence. The choice of antibiotic depends on the underlying cause. If the iris inflammation is severe, it may be necessary to inject cortisone under the conjunctiva or take cortisone tablets. It is important to look for possible underlying causes.

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5- Inflammations of the eyelid

Inflammation of the eyelid ( blepharitis ) is caused by the interaction of several factors. Blepharitis is not uncommon in people with dry or flaky skin. Some glands in the lid produce a lot of secretion and are also constantly irritated, for example by smoke or drafts. Thus, the ground is ready for bacterial inflammation. The edge of the eyelid is red and crusty. Usually the entire lid swells and the eyelashes fall out.

The disease is treated by cleaning the base of the eyelashes at the edge of the eyelid with special ointments or gels. The sooner it is treated, the better, because blepharitis is usually permanent. Disinfectant ointments and local anti-inflammatory eye ointments heal inflammation. Antibiotics should only be used as a last resort because if used incorrectly they can lead to fungal infections of the cornea.

6- Inflammations of the eye sac and tear ducts

Inflammation of the lacrimal sac and tear ducts is almost always caused by a bacterial infection arising from the nose. Often those affected also have a fever.

By carefully pressing the eye bag, the doctor takes a little pus to determine the type of pathogen and treat it with the appropriate antibiotic. If it is a chronic disease, surgery will help in some cases.

How are eye infections diagnosed?

The doctor usually recognizes an eye infection simply by looking at the patient. The slit lamp is the most important tool to confirm the diagnosis. The device, which consists of a microscope and a special light beam, provides an expanded view of all structures in the anterior area. The doctor can then use the eye mirror to examine the fundus, where structures such as the retina and choroid are located. To do this, the doctor has to expand the patient’s black spot with medication.

If the causes of eye inflammation cannot be clearly identified or occur repeatedly, further investigation is necessary to identify possible underlying diseases. This includes, for example, a simple eye test, but also blood tests or an X-ray .

It is important for those affected to see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to avoid complications and resultant damage.

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