Types of Eye Infections

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Eye infections happen because of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. They can affect any part of the eye, including the eyelid. An infection can affect one eye at a time or both. It is important to see your healthcare provider if you suspect you may have an eye infection.

Human eye

Celeste Muñoz / EyeEm / Getty Images

Types

Conjunctivitis

Another name for conjunctivitis is pink eye. It is an eye infection that affects the inside of the eyelid and the outer layer of the eye. Conjunctivitis is highly infectious and can easily spread from person to person.

What Is Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

Verywell / Emily Roberts

Symptoms

If you have conjunctivitis, your eyes may be: 

  • Pink or red
  • Itchy or burn 
  • Watery 
  • Swollen
  • Crusty 
  • Irritated
  • Blurry  
  • Leaking yellow, green, or white discharge (fluid) 
  • Sensitive to bright lights

Causes 

Conjunctivitis may be caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Allergies 
  • Eye-irritating substances 

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will do an eye exam and ask about the symptoms you have. You may also need a laboratory test such as an eye culture to determine if bacteria or viruses are responsible for the infection. Your practitioner can swab your eye to gather a sample for an eye culture test and send it to the lab. 

Treatment

Usually, conjunctivitis goes away on its own within seven to 10 days. However, you may need antibiotic ointment or eye drops for a bacterial infection.

Your treatment options include: 

  • Cold compresses 
  • Eye drops
  • Ointment 
  • Artificial tears
  • Antibiotics
  • Antivirals  

Keratitis

Keratitis is an infection that causes inflammation in the cornea of the eye. Your cornea is a dome that sits on top of the colored part of your eye and refracts light. If you do not get treatment, there is a risk of permanent scarring and vision loss.

keratitis causes

Emily Roberts / Verywell

Symptoms

If you have keratitis, your eyes may be: 

  • Red
  • Painful
  • Blurry 
  • Irritated or feel like something is inside them
  • Sensitive to light
  • Watery or leaking discharge

Causes

Keratitis may be caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Fungi
  • Parasites or ameba

If you wear contact lenses, you may be at a higher risk of having keratitis, especially if you sleep, shower, swim, or do not properly clean your lenses or wear them past their change date. Taking proper care of your lenses and supplies is important, so you should follow your healthcare provider's instructions. 

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will do an eye exam and ask about your symptoms. You may need additional lab tests to determine the cause of keratitis. 

Treatment

Your treatment options include: 

  • Eye drops
  • Ointments
  • Antibiotics
  • Antivirals  
  • Antifungals 

Endophthalmitis

Endophthalmitis is an infection that causes inflammation or swelling inside the eyeball's tissues and fluids. This is a serious condition that can be an emergency because of the risk of permanent vision loss.

Symptoms

If you have endophthalmitis, your eyes may be: 

  • Red
  • Painful or leaking discharge 
  • Swollen or puffy (especially the eyelids) 
  • Blurry or have trouble seeing 
  • Sensitive to light

Causes

Endophthalmitis may be caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi 
  • Complications of eye surgery or injections  
  • Injury or trauma to the eye

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will do an eye exam and check your symptoms. You will have your vision checked and may need an ultrasound. Your practitioner may also do an aqueous or vitreous tap, which uses a small needle to take fluid from the eye for testing. 

Treatment

Your treatment options include: 

  • Antibiotic injections in the eye
  • Antifungal injections in the eye 
  • Steroids 
  • Surgery 

Stye

A stye is a bump on the eyelid caused by an infection. It usually appears at the base of your eyelashes or under your eyelids.

Symptoms

The symptoms of a stye include:

  • Swollen bump or lump on the eyelid
  • Redness 
  • Pain 
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Irritation or feeling like something is inside the eye
  • Watery eye
  • Tenderness in the eyelid 

Causes

When an oil gland (meibomian gland) in the eyelid is blocked, a stye can form. An infection in the hair follicle of your eye can also cause a stye. Bacteria are another common cause of styes. 

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will do an eye exam and check your symptoms. 

Treatment

Usually, a stye goes away on its own within seven days. Talk to your healthcare provider if your stye is getting worse or not going away.

Your treatment options include: 

  • Applying a warm compress to the eye
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Draining the stye in a healthcare provider's office 
Tips for treating a stye

Cindy Chung / Verywell

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a condition that causes irritation in the eyelids and causes flakes to form on the eyelashes. Usually, it is not contagious and does not harm the eyes.

Symptoms

If you have blepharitis, your eyes and eyelids may be: 

  • Red
  • Burn or sting 
  • Crusty 
  • Irritated
  • Itchy 
  • Watery 
  • Sensitive to light 
  • Swollen 
  • Dry 

Causes

If the oil glands in the eyelids are clogged, this can cause blepharitis. Bacteria on the eyelids and near the base of the eyelashes can also cause this condition. 

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will do an eye exam and check your symptoms. 

Treatment

Your treatment options include: 

  • Applying a warm compress to the eye
  • Cleaning the eye and eyelids 
  • Antibiotics
  • Steroid eye drops 

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a type of infection that can affect the eye, eyelid, and skin around the eyes. There are two types of cellulitis within the eye: Pre-septal cellulitis and more dangerous orbital cellulitis. Cellulitis can spread, so it is important to seek prompt medical care.

cellulitis

 Verywell / Alexandra Gordon

Symptoms

The symptoms of cellulitis include:

  • Swollen eye or eyelid
  • Problems moving the eye
  • Eye bulging
  • Vision changes or blurriness 
  • Redness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Causes

Cellulitis may be caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Insect bites
  • Wounds on the face
  • Sinus infections
  • Surgery on the neck or head 

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will do an eye exam and check your symptoms. You will also have to discuss your recent medical history and have laboratory tests, such as a blood test. 

Treatment

Your treatment options include: 

  • Antibiotics
  • Draining fluid from the infection in the healthcare provider's office 
  • Surgery 

Uveitis

Uveitis is a condition that affects the uvea, the middle layer of your eye. It is an inflammatory disease that can damage the eye's tissues.

Symptoms

The symptoms of uveitis include:

  • Red eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Pain
  • Floaters (seeing things float in your vision) 
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Vision loss 

Causes

Autoimmune conditions that can cause uveitis include:

Infectious diseases that can cause uveitis include:

Toxins and injuries may also cause uveitis

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will do an eye exam and check your symptoms. Then, you may need blood tests, laboratory tests, and central nervous system tests. You may also need a brain scan or MRI. 

Treatment

Your treatment options include: 

  • Eye drops 
  • Injections 
  • Pills 
  • Steroids 
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs 
  • Immune-suppressant drugs
  • Wearing dark glasses
  • Surgery 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

You may need to see a healthcare provider, if you have:

  • A lot of pain in your eyes
  • Vision changes 
  • Very red eyes that do not get better
  • A lot of discharge from your eyes
  • Blurry vision or sensitivity to light
  • Symptoms that do not go away after a few days 
  • A weak immune system 

When to Seek Emergency Care

If you have the following symptoms, you should seek emergency care:

  • Bleeding from your eyes or eyelid
  • Vision loss or sudden blindness 
  • Pupils become different sizes and no longer match each other 
  • Problems opening, closing, or moving the eyes 
  • Eyes bulge out 
  • Injuries or trauma to the eyes 


Prevention

There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of having an eye infection. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions about staying healthy.

To prevent an eye infection, you can: 

  • Wash your hands often 
  • Avoid touching your eyes 
  • Avoid sharing items such as makeup, pillowcases, or towels with others
  • Avoid being near someone with an eye infection 
  • Wash all items that someone with an eye infection uses
  • Clean your glasses and contact lenses regularly  
  • Use protective eyewear and safety goggles when necessary 
  • Do not let an eye drop bottle touch your eyes when using it to avoid contamination 
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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Eye infections. Updated November 23, 2020.

  2. National Institutes of Health: National Eye Institute. Pink eye. Updated August 3, 2019.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy contact lens wear and care: germs & infections. Updated April 17, 2014.

  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is endophthalmitis? Updated November 20, 2019.

  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Eyelid bump. Updated January 5, 2021.

  6. National Institutes of Health: National Eye Institute. Blepharitis. Updated August 31, 2020.

  7. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is cellulitis? Updated March 18, 2020.

  8. MedlinePlus. Uveitis. Updated January 5, 2021.