Eye infection is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which ensures that the eyes do not dry out. The conjunctiva covers the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Most cases of eye infection are temporary and not very severe. It makes the eyes itchy, sore and red. Yet there is a risk of vision loss.


An eye infection has various causes. It is usually caused by a bacterium or virus. After a bacterial infection, it takes half a day to two days before the first symptoms occur. In the viral variant, this is five to twelve days.
An allergy or hypersensitivity can also be the cause of infected eyes. An allergic response of the conjunctiva occurs here. This may be caused by using makeup or by hay fever. Furthermore, a person can catch eye infection by unhygienic handling of contact lenses or wearing them too long. Eye infections are also more frequently seen in some conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis and Crohn’s disease. An eye infection is contagious.


Eye infection often starts with symptoms, such as itch or pain in the eye. Next, a person gets red eyes, because the conjunctiva starts to discolor. An eye infection can additionally have the following signs and symptoms:

The various forms of eye infection can be distinguished by their symptoms. For example, a bacterial eye infection gives a yellow-green discharge. A viral infection gives a mucus-like watery discharge. Apart from that, a person with a viral eye infection often suffers from a red eye, sore throat and runny nose. Allergic eye infection causes itch, redness and watery discharge.


By means of examination, the ophthalmologist or general practitioner can distinguish the different forms of eye infection. The eye is first examined with a slit lamp in order to exclude an inflammation of the cornea or other ocular tissues, such as the iris. Sometimes it may be necessary to make a culture of the discharge from the eye. To do this, a small cotton swab is very carefully brushed along the eye mucosa. This way can be identified which bacterium or virus must be combated.


The treatment of an eye infection is mainly focused on combating the inflammation. This can be achieved with medication in the form of antibiotics or eye drops. An injection in or around the eyes is sometimes necessary. In some cases, oral medications, in the form of tablets, suffice. However, this depends on the severity of the inflammation. The duration of the treatment may last for only one week, but may also take months or even years. This depends on the cause.


An eye infection can cause a lot of pain, but is rarely dangerous. The eye usually heals by itself within a week. The condition does have plenty of potential serious complications. For this reason, it's necessary that the eye infection is treated quickly and as effectively as possible. If the inflammation continues uncontrolled, complications or chronic increases in eye pressure can occur in some cases, which may lead to damage of the optic nerve and permanent loss of vision.