There are many different infections and illnesses that can affect our eyes. Some of these are minor, while others are a symptom of a much larger issue.
Protecting your vision is one of the best ways to safeguard your long-term health and independence. Despite being two of the most critical organs in our body, we often take our eyes for granted, ignoring minor issues and forgoing preventative care until it’s too late to make a difference.
Today, we’ll delve into some of the most common eye infections that the optometrists in our clinics see regularly, and what they think patients should do if they believe their eyes may be at risk.
A stye is a raised and swollen bump found on either the eyelash line or the eyelid. Although most people refer to any swollen bump near the eye as a stye, these infections are formally known by two different names: a hordeolum, when the bump is near an eyelash or edge of an eyelid, and a chalazion when the bump is on top of the eyelid.
Regardless of what your doctor will call it, the truth is styes can be painful, and many people find them embarrassing because they look so much like a pimple.
Symptoms of a Stye
You may not notice when a stye first develops, but eventually, you’ll feel a swollen and red bump that’s tender and even painful when pressed. If a chalazion on your eyelid gets large enough, it can even cause blurry vision.
If you notice a chalazion developing, you should consult a doctor or ophthalmologist right away. These styes are typically caused by a blockage in the meibomian gland in the upper eyelid, so it’s important to get it treated to ensure that your gland can continue to function effectively.
The doctor or optometrist may prescribe antibiotic drops to ensure the stye does not become infected and to minimize redness. If these drops don’t help, and the stye doesn’t go away on its own, it may need to be cut away. With a little local anesthetic, this is a quick and painless procedure.
Pink eye is a common eye infection that occurs when an allergen or bacterial or viral irritant enters the transparent lining of the eyeball. This intrusion causes the conjunctiva (membrane) to become pink or red. The inflammation of this membrane is why pink eye is formally known as conjunctivitis. Most cases of pink eye are mild, but occasionally it may require medication before it clears up completely.
Pink eye is also extremely contagious. Anyone who develops pink eye should scrupulously avoid contact with others to ensure that they don’t spread it to their friends and family.
Symptoms of Pink Eye
The most common symptom of pink eye is redness inside the eyelid and along the white of the eye, making the eye look pink. As it develops, you may feel that your eyeball is gritty and itchy, and feels like it’s burning. Some less common symptoms include discharge, crusting on the eyelid and eyelashes, and watery eyes.
Pink Eye Treatment
Most cases of pink eye will clear up in a few days without any further treatment. However, if you develop pink eye and it persists for more than a few days, or your eyes start to feel painful and sensitive to light, you should consult a doctor.
There are several more serious conditions that can cause reddened, itchy eyes, including herpes simplex and the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles.
If your pink eye is due to viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, your doctor or ophthalmologist can prescribe medication to clear up any lingering infection. They may also give you prescription eye drops or ointments that can offer relief from painful symptoms.
If you have a bump around your eyelash line that isn’t a stye or a pimple, you may have an ingrown eyelash. This condition, also known as trichiasis, typically occurs when an eyelash is misdirected inward instead of along the normal outward curve .
Although it might not seem like a big deal at first, eventually the ingrown eyelash can irritate the surrounding skin and even the eyeball itself. If left untreated, the irritation can damage the cornea, opening the door to infection and potentially even a loss of vision.
Ingrown Eyelash Symptoms
The symptoms of an ingrown eyelash are similar to that of a stye. Patients may notice a raised lump, or feel the sensation that there’s something in their eye that they can’t remove. Ingrown eyelashes can also cause redness around the eye, and if it goes on for an extended period it will become itchy and painful.
Treatment for Ingrown Eyelashes
Ingrown eyelashes can be carefully removed by a trained ophthalmologist, and should be taken care of quickly before they irritate the eye. Most of the time, the eyelashes can be gently plucked away during an in-office procedure. If an eyelash is trapped under the skin, this is different from a traditional ingrown eyelash and may require a minor surgery to remove.
Concerned About an Eye Infection? Visit Southwestern Eye Center
If you’re concerned that you’re exhibiting any of the symptoms we listed above, get in touch to schedule an appointment at Southwestern Eye Center. We have clinics throughout Arizona and New Mexico, and all of our ophthalmologists and optometrists are dedicated to ensuring the long-term health and safety of your eyes and vision.