An eye infection means the conjunctiva of your eye is infected. The conjunctiva is a transparent mucous membrane which covers the inside of your eyelids and the whites of your eyes. This usually gets infected by a virus. The most common virus is the common cold virus. In some cases, the infection will be caused by bacteria. The infection doesn’t need to be serious in either case and will usually disappear within 1 to 2 weeks. Hygiene is important if you’re suffering from an eye infection, as the virus or bacteria can be transferred to other people. An eye infection is therefore contagious.
You may have the following symptoms with an eye infection:
- Red eyes. The inside of your eyelids and the whites of your eyes will be particularly red.
- Teary eyes.
- Pus and mucus on the inside of your eyelids.
- Sticky eyelids. This can cause them to stick together.
- Burning eyes.
- Feeling like there’s dirt or sand in your eyes.
- Swollen skin around your eyes.
- Itchy eyes.
You can have an eye infection in one or both eyes.
If you have an eye infection, it’s important that you:
- Regularly remove the pus and mucus with a cotton swab and tap water. It’s best to move the cotton swab from the outer to the inner corner of the eye.
- Don’t wear make-up.
- Don’t rub your eyes. This will also stop from infecting other people.
- Regularly wash your hands.
- Use a clean towel every day.
- Wear sunglasses if conditions are too bright.
- Wear glasses rather than contact lenses.
- If you don’t have glasses, use new lenses if you have soft lenses.
- Regularly clean your hard lenses if you don’t have access to glasses. Also use new lens solution and use a new storage case.
An eye infection will often go away on its own. You usually won’t need to contact your GP if you follow the advice carefully. However, you should contact your GP if:
- You’re in a lot of pain.
- Your vision is worsening.
- You can’t, or can hardly, tolerate light.
- Your symptoms worsen.
- Your situation hasn’t improved after two weeks.
- You suffer from an eye disease and are experiencing the above symptoms.
- You’ve had surgery on your eyes and are experiencing the above symptoms.
- You haven’t noticed any improvement a week after visiting your GP.
- Your GP has prescribed eye drops for you and you don’t notice any improvement after three days.
- You have a compromised immune system and get an eye infection.