Eye Infection Basics

One in four school-age children has a vision problem that needs correcting, so don't take good eyesight for granted. Read on for the latest information on common infections.

Conjunctivitis

Cause: Bacterial, viral, or fungal infection of the membrane lining the eyelids.

Contagious? Yes, usually

Look for: Redness, itchiness, light sensitivity, and a discharge that crusts.

Treatment: Try prescription ointments, eyedrops, or oral antibiotics for bacterial forms; some viral forms often disappear on their own.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Cause: Inflammation due to allergies.

Contagious? No

Look for: Red, itching, watery eyes. No discharge.

Treatment: Use cool compresses to soothe the eyes and antiallergenic eyedrops, available over the counter or by prescription. Avoid the allergen.

Sty

Cause: Eyelid gland becomes clogged. Children often get sties by rubbing their eyes with dirty hands.

Contagious? No

Look for: Bump on eyelid with occasional discharge. Pain indicates infection.

Treatment: Apply warm compresses; use antibiotic drops or ointment if sty is infected.

Blocked Tear Duct

Cause: Inflammation that occurs when tear ducts are blocked because of infection, injury, or narrowness of duct.

Contagious? No

Look for: Watery eyes; inside corner is red or swollen.

Treatment: Open duct with warm compresses; massage the affected area at the nose; use antibiotic drops if infected. Surgery may be needed.

Scratched Cornea

Cause: Scratch in the membrane covering the eye, caused by a foreign object. May lead to an infection.

Contagious? No

Look for: Light sensitivity, tearing, and pain.

Treatment: Apply antibiotic ointment frequently until healing is complete. Do not patch the injured eye, and do not treat with ice.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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