Getting eye infections is a pain, and one that can majorly disrupt your vision and well-being. Unfortunately, they are more commonplace today than one might think, and are of a particular threat to contact lens wearers. We thought we’d let you know about the major causes of eye infections, and how to spot them early on, so you can protect your eyes as best as possible.
What the causes are
An eye infection is also known as ‘conjunctivitis’, and often comes in one of three types. Viruses and bacteria entering your eye can lead to infective conjunctivitis, while irritant conjunctivitis comes from harmful influences on the eye, such as shampoo, fumes and stray eyelashes.
The third category of eye infections is allergic conjunctivitis. Eyes can suffer painful and adverse allergic reactions, whether its from animals, pollen or a number of other factors. This is the particular type of eye infection that is more prominent among contact lens wearers. The layer of tissue that covers the eye is named the conjunctiva, and can become inflamed by contact lenses or eye drops if you are allergic to them.
Which signs to look out for
Common symptoms of eye infections include redness of the eye, which will likely be painful and irritating. In addition, the eye can often release a discharge that crusts over the eyelashes. This is usually a white, yellow or green colour, and is a mix of meibum (a moisturising substance in your eye) and mucin (watery mucus that comes from the conjunctiva). This symptom can be particularly noticeable after having just woken up. Blood vessels within your eyes widen and create the redness, while the discharge is produced by inflamed tear production glands.
Infective conjunctivitis can often result in a burning sensation within your eyes, and the swelling of a lymph node behind your ear.
Particularly with allergic conjunctivitis, eyes can become itchy. Common symptoms that reveal an allergy to contact lenses include small spots appearing on the inside of your eyelids, while sore and dry eyelids is often caused by an allergy to eye drops.
What you should do
The good thing to know is that most eye infections are nothing to worry about in the long term and will clear up in a matter of weeks. To speed up the healing process, it helps to switch to glasses instead of contact lenses until your eyes have recovered. In addition, you must resist the temptation to rub your eyes, as this will only lead to further inflammation. A cool compress over your eyes can also bring down a number of the symptoms and can offer some relief from the irritation.
If your conjunctivitis was caused by an allergy, it is recommended to immediately distance yourself from, and avoid any contact with, the allergen. Antihistamines can also be helpful medication to take during this time.
However, if the symptoms include pain in your eyes, disturbed vision, a sensitivity to light or intense irritation, then it is advised to visit your GP as soon as possible. By having a professional check your eyes, you can find out if there is a more serious cause behind your eye infection, and avoid any serious harm to your eyes or vision.
There are actually a number of steps you can take as a contact lens wearer to greatly reduce the risk of an eye infection, before it even happens. Make sure to follow our hygienic guide to applying your contact lenses
. In addition, if you use monthly-wear contact lenses, then take extra care to clean, disinfect, rinse and store your contact lenses in the appropriate solution
and with the appropriate cleaning routine. Alternatively, opting to wear daily disposable contact lenses
can be more hygienic for those not wanting to adhere to a strict cleaning routine for their lenses.