SNEC Explains: Eye infections

Exposure to viral, bacterial , fungal or parasitic infections can cause eyes to become red, swollen and watery - learn to identify and deal with eye infections.

What are eye infections?

Eye infections are eye conditions caused by microbiological agents such as viruses and bacteria that may cause your eyes to become red and swollen.

Conjunctivitis (pink or red eye) is the most common eye infection. It is an inflammation of the conjunctiva and the inner surface of the eyelids, usually due to a viral or bacterial infection. Sometimes, it can also be due to underlying allergic condition.

A stye (pictured above) is another common infection that occurs when an infection occurs in the hair follicle of your eyelashes. They normally look like a small pus-filled boil or a pimple. If the infection of your eyelid is more severe, the condition is known as blepharitis, or an eyelid infection.

Keratitis is a serious eye infection of the cornea that can lead to scarring and vision loss. Improper contact lens care increases the risk of this condition.

How do I know if I have an eye infection?

You may experience one or more of the following symptoms :

• Red eyes • Eye discharge (watery, mucus, pus) • Eye discomfort / pain • Eye swelling or swelling of tissue surrounding the eye • Persistent itching • Blurring vision • Flaking of the eyelids

How do I prevent eye infections?

To prevent pathogens from entering your eye :

• Wash your hands before and after touching your eyes or face • Avoid sharing eye makeup and change eye makeup every six months • Practice good contact lens care and never share contact lens equipment, containers or solutions • If you have an existing eye infection, avoid using any eye makeup or wearing contact lenses until the infection clears up • Do not share towels, linen, pillows or handkerchiefs • Avoid exposing your eyes to contaminated water

What kinds of treatments are available for eye infections?

You should see your eye doctor to determine the cause of your eye infection and get advice on the best course of treatment. Treatment usually includes antibiotic eyedrops or ointment treatment.

This article was contributed by Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC). For more information, visit SNEC's website at