The most common type of eye infection is conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is a highly contagious eye infection that results in inflammation of the layer of tissue covering the front of the eye, known as the conjunctiva. This is often referred to as “pink eye,” due to the white of the eye turning a pink or red color.
Often, conjunctivitis begins in one eye, then moves to the other. It is possible to avoid this by remaining diligent about washing hands and avoiding cross contamination. However, if the patient is a child, this may be incredibly difficult to manage. Instead, it will likely be necessary to treat both infected eyes at once to completely clear up the infection.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis are the following:
- Redness of the eye
- Watery eye(s)
- Puffy eye(s)
- Discharge or crusting around eyes, especially after sleep
- Itching or irritation
There are several types of conjunctivitis. On the outside, they may appear to be the same pink eye, but treatment may vary depending on what caused the irritation and infection.
The pink eye that most people – especially parents – are familiar with is infective conjunctivitis. This infection can be spread easily at your child’s school.
Viral conjunctivitis is, as the name implies, a viral infection in the eyes. In many cases, there is not discharged pus with viral conjunctivitis, so the primary symptoms will be redness and wateriness of the eyes. This type of pink eye is very contagious, but usually clears up in a few days.
Bacterial conjunctivitis comes from a bacterial infection. This form of conjunctivitis can often be identified because patients will wake up with their eyelids stuck together with pus. Left untreated, this form of conjunctivitis can cause damage to the eye.
Eye irritation and inflammation can be caused by sources other than infections. Allergies can cause eye infections to flare up as well.
If you find that you or a loved one often have eye infections around the same time, it may be allergic conjunctivitis resulting from a seasonal allergy like pollen. By remaining proactive with your doctor about managing your allergies, you can get ahead of these eye infections and avoid the annual discomfort.
Allergic conjunctivitis can also be caused by year-round allergies. Dust and pet dander, for example, can irritate and inflame your eyes. These infections are a symptom of a larger allergy issue and should clear up once you find a treatment plan for those allergies.
By far, the least contagious and simplest to manage form of conjunctivitis is irritant conjunctivitis. This is caused when an irritant comes into physical contact with your eye. This could be a stray eyelash rubbing on your eye or shampoo getting in your eyes. Irritant conjunctivitis is easily managed by flushing out or removing the irritant.
Depending on what caused the irritation, the damage may be minor or severe. An aggravating eyelash can cause irritation to the surface of your eye, but is unlikely to cause serious damage. However, there are other damaging substances that can result in serious harm to your eye. If you have any doubt about the severity of your irritant conjunctivitis, please seek medical attention to ensure that no long-lasting damage has been caused.
When to see a doctor
Depending on what type of eye infection you have, the treatments and recovery time will vary. However, in general, minor eye infections clear up with time. By treating the infection quickly, you can decrease both the discomfort and the recovery time. The goal is always make cleanliness a priority to avoid worsening symptoms and to protect your other eye.
However, you should not assume all eye infections are minor. A severe, untreated infection can cause significant harm to your eye. Some patients, unfortunately, end up with scarring in their eye from an infection. Others have the infection spread elsewhere in their body, resulting in serious secondary infections.
Please visit an urgent care if your eye infection involves any of the following symptoms.
- Serious eye pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Extreme redness or swelling
- Feeling ill or fatigued
- Pus that is not resolved after 3 days of antibiotic eyedrops
Newborns and infants with conjunctivitis should always see their pediatrician to ensure no additional complications develop as a result of this infection.
If eye infections remain mild, they can be treated at home, but you should never feel obligated to “tough it out.” With a little extra support, you can get back to normal quicker. There is no need to suffer when help is nearby! Visit Gonzaba Urgent Care any day of the week that you need assistance between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. With three convenient locations around San Antonio, our doctors are readily available to help you.