day 155: infection
Creative Commons License photo credit: estheraseThe number one type of eye infection is commonly known as pink eye, but it’s medical name is conjunctivitis—so named because pink eye infections enter through a part of the eye called the conjunctiva. Conjunctivitis is highly contagious, so it is important to take some precautions if you have this eye infection such as washing your hands regularly, not touching your eyes and ensuring that you don’t share wash cloths or towels. Antibiotic treatment is usually effective in treating this disease and clears up fairly quickly.

Corneal infections enter your eye through the cornea. The cornea usually has excellent barriers, but can be prone to infection if it is torn or injured in some way. The deeper the injury, the more severe the infection. Most corneal infections are caused by staphylococcus or streptococcus. Both are normal bacteria that live either on our eyelids, skin, mouth and nose or inside of our mouth, skin, intestine and upper respiratory tract. Both infections can be very painful and if left untreated can lead to scarring or permanent vision loss. If you have a corneal infection, you should see your doctor right away.

There is another infection to keep your eye out for called blepharitis and it comes in two forms. Anterior blepharitis affects the front of the eyelid where the eyelashes are attached. Common causes for this infection are staphylococcus and scalp dandruff. The posterior one affects the inner eyelid and is caused by oil from acne or scalp dandruff. Symptoms include excessive tearing, burning, itching, sensitivity to light, red and swollen eyelids, red eyes, blurred vision, frothy tears or crusting of the eyelashes. Treatment involves cleaning the crust on the eyelids with a mixture of warm water and baby shampoo. If your blepharitis is severe, antibiotics or steroid eye drops can be prescribed.

The bottom line is to put simple practices in place that can help prevent eye infections and save you from losing your vision. Wash your hands often, avoid sharing towels with others, clean your contact lenses properly, take steps to avoid eye injuries and be sure to see your eye doctor immediately if you think you may have an infection.

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