A quick glance at the clock and you know if you don't decide what to do in the next 10 to 15 minutes, you're going to be late for work. You mentally roll through the options: Go online, self-diagnose and pick up something at the drug store on the way into work. Make a quick call to an ask a nurse service for an over the phone diagnosis and treatment suggestions. Stop by an urgent care on the way into the office. Call your eye doctor's office to see if they have an opening to see you today.
As you consider your options, here are a few things to keep in mind. Most eye infections have the same symptoms. However, eye infections range from simple to complex and can be caused by a virus, bacteria, fungus, or parasites. Eye infections can affect one or both eyes, and can affect different parts of the eye. Some eye infections are highly contagious, while others can quickly progress from a seemingly minor irritation to a serious medical condition.
Let's start by taking a look at some of the different types of eye infections:
Contact lens wearers are at increased risk for acanthameoba keratitis – a serious sight-threatening infection. Acanthameoba are tiny parasites that can live in pools, hot tubs, and even tap water. If you wear contact lenses into the pool or hot tub, or use contaminated water to clean your lenses, acanthameoba can transfer from your contact lens to your eye, and can penetrate the cornea. This condition can be difficult to treat, may require corneal surgery, andmay result in vision loss.
Blepharitis can cause red, irritated eyelids due to inflammation of the follicles of your eyelashes. This is typically due to bacteria. However, can be caused by infection or seborrheic dermatitis. Treatment can require antibiotics, steroid eye drops, or a combination of the two in addition to frequent cleaning of the eyelids. Complications of blepharitis include the formation of a sty or chalazion.
Conjunctivitis (also known as Pink Eye):
Conjunctivitis is the most common type of eye infection because is has numerous potential triggers, ranging from allergic reactions to chemical exposure to bacterial infection to viral origins. Most forms of conjunctivitis are highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person. The treatment of conjunctivitis depends on its cause.
Corneal infections can result from numerous types of bacteria or viruses. Some causes, which are more common than you may think, are Chlamydia, Herpes Simplex, Herpes Zoster, Neisseria Gonorrhea and Varicella Zoster. Approximately 15% of people with chronic ocular herpes simplex experience some vision loss. Some of these conditions can result in a corneal ulcer, corneal scarring, a ruptured cornea, or permanent vision loss.
Corneal ulcers are exposed, open sores on the surface of the corneal. Corneal ulcers are caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Corneal ulcers can start as an irritation and quickly become extremely painful, with increased sensitivity to light. Contact lens wears are more prone to developing corneal ulcers because the bacteria, virus or fungi can become trapped behind the contact lens and on the surface of the cornea. Corneal ulcers can cause permanent vision loss within a short period of time.
Cytomegalovirus Retinitis is very common, but only in patients with weakened or compromised immune systems. Cytomegalovirus retinitis is an inflammation of the retina, and usually begins in one eye but may spread to the other eye. Treatment of cytomegalovirus retinitis includes antiviral medications. Without treatment, blindness may occur within six months. Cytomegalovirus is the leading cause of blindness in people with AIDS.
Dacryoadenitis is the inflammation of the lacrimal gland, the gland that produces tears. Acute dacryoadenitis can be caused by either a bacterial or viral infection; while chronic, or ongoing dacryoadenitis, if more often caused by noninfectious inflammatory systemic disorders.
Demodex Parasite Infections:
Demodex parasites are small mites found at the roots of the eyelashes. Two types of the main species exist. Demodex folliculorum tend to cluster at the root of the eyelashes. Demodex brevis tend to reside in the oil glands at the eyelid margin. The mites are noctural, and come out onto the person's lash roots while they are asleep to mate and reproduce on the person's skin. By the time the person wakes up, the mites have already burrowed into the person's eyelash follicles and are out of view. Demodex mites are present on the majority of people in small quantities, and most pets have them. People who allow pets to sleep in their beds are more susceptible to demodex parasite infections.
Endophthalmitis is an inflammation of the eye ball, caused by a bacteria or microorganisms that penetrate to the eye's interior. Endophthalmitis can occur following an eye injury or as a rare complication following eye surgery, such as cataract surgery.
Keratitis (Ameobic Keratitis: Bacterial Keratitis, Fungal Keratitis, Herpes Keratitis, Photokeratitis) :
Keratitis is an infection of the cornea, and there are several types of keratitis. Acanthalmoeba causes amoebic keratitis, bacteria causes bacterial keratitis, fungal keratitis is caused by fungi commonly found in plant material, the herpes simplex virus causes herpes keratitis, and photokeratitis is caused by intense exposure to UV rays. Other causes of keratitis include Lyme disease, Epstein-Barr virus, shingles, and hepatitis B to name a few. If a patient develops a case of deep keratitis, the deeper corneal layers are affected and scarring may result.
Ocular Histoplasmosis Syndrome (OHS):
Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection of the lungs, which is contracted by inhaling spores. In the United States this condition is concentrated in the southeastern US, where it is estimated that over 90% of adults have had histoplasmosis – most without symptoms. In a small percentage of cases, and over many years or decades, the fungus migrates to the retina. Once there, the retinal decays and loss of central vision occurs.
Parasitic infections can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and should be reported to an eye doctor as soon as possible. Eye parasites themselves cannot be seen without the use of a slit lamp. Eye parasites can cause the eye to appear red, light sensitivity, eyelashes to fall out, partial or even total loss of vision which may be temporary or even permanent, or small white ulcers to develop around the colored part of the eye. Bacterial infections may develop due to damage to the eye caused by the parasites. Antibiotic eye drops, oral antibiotics, or a combination are required to treat parasitic infections.
Parinaud Oculoglandular Syndrome:
Parinaud Oculoglandular Syndrome is an eye infection similar to conjunctivitis. Parinaud Oculoglandular Syndrome can be caused by bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses; and usually affects one eye. Treatment can include antibiotics, and in rare cases surgery may be required.
The hordeolum (also referred to as a sty) is an infection commonly caused by staphyloccocus bacteria, which forms a lump near the eyelid's edge. The elevated, or swollen area is usually painful, and can be localized swelling or swelling of the entire eyelid. Treatment can include antibiotics, warm compresses, or surgical draining of the sty.
Trachoma is an eye infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, while uncommon in the United States it is the leading cause of infectious blindness world-wide. Flies can spread the infection in unsanitary conditions, and reinfection is a common problem.
If you're considering a quick call to an ask a nurse service or turning to the internet for an online diagnosis, keep in mind – most eye infections have very similar symptoms. Diagnosis over the phone or online is based on your list of symptoms. It is not possible to accurately diagnose an eye infection unless an eye doctor looks at the surface of your eye using a slit lamp. You can save time, get an accurate diagnosis, and the medication you need when you seek treatment with an eye doctor. Most urgent care centers are not equipped with the instruments necessary to closely view the surface of the eye, which is why a referral to an eye doctor following an urgent care visit is not uncommon.
Here's a list of common symptoms associated with an eye infection:
Blurred (or decreased) vision
Contact lens discomfort
Crusty eyelid or eyelashes
Discharge from the eye (red, yellow, green or clear liquid)
Dryness of the eyes
Flaking of the eye lids
Foreign body sensation (eyes feel gritty)
Inflammation of the eyelid or around the eye
All of the symptoms listed above indicate that your eye(s) may be fighting an infection. As with most health conditions, early detection and prompt treatment can prevent what can begin as a minor eye infection from progressing and potentially causing serious damage to your eye, including permanent vision loss.
To ensure proper treatment of an eye infection, you must first be correctly diagnosed by an eye doctor. You may require prescription strength antibiotics (eye drops or oral), antiviral therapy, antifungal treatment, or anti-inflammatory (steroid) eye drops to resolve the eye infection as quickly as possible. Proper initial diagnosis determines the duration and effectiveness of treatment. When over the phone or online diagnosis postpones an accurate diagnosis and treatment, this can cause symptoms to worsen and a longer than usual treatment time.
If you think you may have an eye infection, give our office a call at 208.377.8899. We always offer same day appointments for eye infections and emergencies. The sooner you call, the sooner we can help.