Common Causes of Eye Infections and Inflammation
Eye infections are fairly common and can happen to anyone from infants and children to young adults and seniors. Most instances of eye infection and inflammation are easy to detect. You may notice redness around the eyes, swelling or excessive tears. Other infections may cause the skin to become dry, flaky and/or crusty. And thankfully, infections and inflammation are just as easy to treat as they are to spot.
A chalazion (chalazia plural) is a red bump that forms on the eyelid. It’s often called a meibomian cyst (a meibomian being the the oil gland at the base of your eyelash). When this oil gland becomes blocked, it slowly forms a chalazion. These oil glands can become blocked for a number of reasons including rosacea, chronic blepharitis, seborrheic dermatitis, tuberculosis and viral infections. Chalazia may be painful at first, but this pain generally diminishes.
Whereas chalazia are caused by a noninfectious blocked oil gland, styes are caused by infected blocked oil glands. Styes are usually painful, may present like a boil or pimple and are often filled with pus. In most instances, styes will resolve on their own, but of course there are exceptions.
Contact dermatitis is a skin condition that presents as an itchy, uncomfortable rash. Contact dermatitis is not contagious and is usually caused by direct contact or allergic reaction to an irritating substance. Substances can include cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry and plants. Symptoms range from red and swollen skin surrounding the eyes, to a watery discharge to crusty flaky skin.
Conjunctivitis (AKA pink eye) is an infection that affects the transparent membrane lining the eyelid and eyeball called the conjunctiva. Pink eye is generally caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Although pink eye can be irritating and embarrassing, it rarely affects your vision. However, pink eye is contagious, so it’s important to take appropriate precautions to limit its spread.
Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea and may or may not be associated with an infection. Noninfectious keratitis can appear due to minor injuries like wearing your contact lenses for too long. Infectious keratitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Symptoms include redness, pain, watery discharge or excessive tears, blurred or decreased vision and sensitivity to light.
Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids and generally affects both eyes along the edges of the eyelids. Blepharitis usually occurs when the tiny oil glands at the base of your eyelashes become clogged. Comedogenic makeup, haircare and skincare products, pollen, animal dander and smoke are the most common suspects. As a result, eyelids become swollen, irritated, greasy, or even crusty and flaky.
A corneal ulcer is an open sore on your cornea and is considered a medical emergency. Symptoms range from red, watery and bloodshot eyes to severe eye pain and pus or other eye discharge. If not treated, a corneal ulcer can lead to vision loss and blindness. Contact your eye care provider immediately if you suspect you have a corneal ulcer.
Anterior uveitis (AKA iritis) is inflammation of the iris (the colored part of the eye) and adjacent tissue. Anterior uveitis usually only affects one eye at a time, but both eyes can be affected simultaneously or one shortly after the other. Symptoms include red, painful, irritated eyes, blurred vision and sensitivity to light. It generally occurs as a result of trauma or comorbid with other health problems like rheumatoid arthritis, syphilis, tuberculosis and sarcoidosis.
Entropion is the inversion or inward turning of the eyelid margin. This can result in trichiasis, where the eyelashes grow in towards the eye. The eyelid and eyelashes rub against the surface of your eye causing irritation and discomfort.