Moraxella catarrhalis on Columbia Horse Blood Agar - Detail
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nathan ReadingAn eye infection can not only threaten your vision, but the orbit can act as an entry portal to the rest of the body and infections can progress to systemic involvement, meningitis, and even death.

Typically the eye is well protected from infection by the conjunctiva and corneal epithelium. A tear film and the flow of tears also protect the eye by neutralising or washing away pathogens. Despite having such a complex layering of defence mechanisms, these eye barriers can still be breached by trauma, improper tearing, or contact lens wear and lead to an eye infection.

An eye infection occurs when harmful micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi and viruses invade any part of the eye or surrounding area. Areas that could become infected include the cornea or the moist membrane lining the outer eye or inner eyelids. The more serious eye infections will penetrate the deeper, interior portions of the eye to create vision-threatening conditions such as endophthalmitis, which is an inflammtion of the internal coats of the eye. It is a very serious condition that is usually accompanied by severe pain, loss of vision and redness and requires immediate treatment.

For example, the conjunctiva is a semi-transparent skin that covers the white part of the eye. It helps to protect the eye from foreign bodies, but can still be susceptible to infections and irritants. Conjunctivitis (also known as “pink eye”) is a very commonly seen condition that can be caused by three different sources: viral, bacterial or allergic. Viral conjunctivitis is quite contagious with the appearance of redness and watery tearing. Bacterial conjunctivitis is usually caused by staphylococci or strep and shows up with the presence of a creamy discharge. Allergic conjunctivitis also shows up with red, watery eyes, but its hallmark is a swelling around the eyes and itchiness. The treatments for each type vary, but with any possible eye infection you should seek immediate diagnosis and treatment.
Whenever you suspect or experience an eye infection, make sure to make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately for a diagnosis and treatment. Trying to self-diagnose your condition or ignoring it in hopes that it will go away can delay receiving an effective treatment and potentially harm your sight for good.

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