While some eye infections have the possibility to damage your eyes if left untreated, others are fairly common, easily treated, and even easier to prevent. Don’t risk going through another episode with swollen, drippy, itchy, irritated eyes when you don’t have to.
Keeping an eye out for the most common infections
Sties—a sty forms when there’s an abnormal buildup of bacteria in the glands of your eyelids, usually resulting in a pimple or zit-like growth on the lining of your eyelid. These are typically painful, feel larger than they are, and cause your eyes to water. Popping a sty usually makes the problem worse. Instead, use a warm compress to alleviate the pain and pressure.
Conjunctivitis—or pink eye, as it’s most commonly referred to, is an infection of the lining of the eye by a bacteria or virus. Most commonly, pink eye makes your eyes swell, turn red, and excrete excessive pus and mucous. Not only is it painful and itchy, but it’s highly contagious. If you suspect you have pink eye, then avoid contact with others. A visit to your eye doctor may also be in order.
Blepharitis—exposure to common bacteria on manmade surfaces sometimes results in this type of infection. Inflammation of the eyes leads to redness, blurry vision, itchy eyes and eyelids, and the feeling that something is constantly in your eyes. Leaving make-up on your eyes overnight or rubbing your eyes with dirty hands puts you at risk.
Treating the symptoms of your infected eyes
For the most common symptoms of eye infections—discharge, red eyes, pain, itchiness, swelling, watery eyes, blurry vision, dry eye, and light sensitivity—there are a few at-home remedies to alleviate your discomfort.
- Removing excess oil, bacteria, and pollen from your eyes will reduce irritation. Simply wash your eyes and eyelids with a doctor-recommended cleanser
- Placing a warm eye compress over the eyes helps reduce swelling and pain
- Place a warm, wet washcloth on your eyes at night before bed to help sooth them (also a good alternative to an eye compress)
- Wipe your eyes clean with a soft washcloth and diluted mixture of hypoallergenic baby shampoo and warm water
Tips for prevention
Preventing eye infections involves simple hygiene habits that reduce your chances of exposing your eyes to infectious bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Even if some are common sense, they’re helpful reminders and important to teach your younger family members.
- Wash your hands before touching your eyes
- Avoid rubbing your eyes excessively
- Do not share cosmetics with others
- Replace cosmetics and applicators if you develop an eye infection
- Avoid exposure to smoke (tobacco), chemical fumes, and other irritating substances
- Clean off makeup before bed
- Keep your contact lenses and case clean per your eye doctor’s instructions
- Avoid wearing contacts overnight
- Replace your contact lens case every three months
- Maintain a high standard of hygiene with bedding, towels, and clothing
Thankfully, most common eye infections resolve on their own without any necessary medical treatment. But if any of your symptoms persist longer than 7-10 days or they intensify suddenly, then visit your eye doctor as soon as possible. This could be a sign that a more severe infection is developing or persisting and needs to be diagnosed by your eye care professional.
Use your VSP Individual Plan to schedule an eye exam with your doctor. If you don’t have vision insurance, find out how VSP can help you save on your next eye exam with individual eye insurance.