If the eyes are itchy, burning or red, this is usually very unpleasant and irritating for the affected person. Inflammation of the eyes such as conjunctivitis, styes or inflammation of the eyelids are common and can have various causes.
The good news is that most eye infections can be treated successfully and subside accordingly quickly. However, since our eyes are one of the most sensitive areas of our body, even the slightest symptoms of an infection of the eyes can have a significant and negative impact on those affected.
Each of these infections has its own symptoms:
The individual types of eye inflammation can also be traced back to a variety of causes:
Inflammation in the eye or around the eye area can usually be seen with the naked eye. Nevertheless, the ophthalmologist first gains a more accurate picture of the medical history. To this end, the patient is asked various questions: whether eye diseases have been previously diagnosed, whether they have allergies, whether they wear contact lenses or whether they have just got over a flu-like infection.
The eyes will then be examined more closely, with the ophthalmologist concentrating particularly on the space between the eyelids and the eyeball. They also check whether there is swelling or a sensitivity to pressure. The skin on the face can also provide information – for example, if the inflammation is caused by herpes viruses. If necessary, the ophthalmologist will even carry out an eye test to assess the patient’s eyesight and thus rule out the possibility that the symptoms can be traced back to defective vision or an incorrectly adjusted visual aid.
Last but not least, the specialist looks at the patient’s eyes using a slit lamp. Thanks to the enlarged image, the individual eye structures can be better identified, meaning the precise area where the inflammation of the eye originated can be determined. In particular, the conjunctiva, the cornea and the eyelids are precisely illuminated before an accurate diagnosis can be made based on the data collected.
It is important that eye inflammation is always treated according to its causes.
If there is conjunctivitis, it must first be clarified whether it was caused by bacteria or allergens. If bacteria are the cause, treatment is carried out with an antibiotic. If allergens are responsible, they should be avoided in future or the symptoms should be alleviated with anti-allergic agents. However, if conjunctivitis was caused by viruses, treatment options are limited; as a rule, however, antivirals can be administered.
A similar procedure is used in the case of dacryocystitis (inflammation of the lacrimal sac) or corneal inflammation: If bacteria are the cause, antibiotic eye drops are prescribed; if viruses are the cause, antivirals are administered. However, if the corneal inflammation is due to dry eyes, moisturising eye drops can alleviate the symptoms.
In the event of inflammation of the vascular membrane, medication is occasionally required to prevent subsequent damage in the form of adhesions to the iris and lens. These medications are usually administered as eye drops that dilate the pupils. Anti-inflammatory ointments with cortisone may also be used.
In the case of inflammation of the eyelids, the patient must first refrain from using cosmetics or contact lenses and also understand the importance of practising excellent eye hygiene: Damp compresses can help to dissolve the matter clogging the glands. Massaging the eyelid can also provide relief. However, if these methods do not work, the affected eye will need to be treated with antibiotics or antivirals.
Eye ointments or drops usually cause the inflammatory symptoms to subside quickly as they contain active ingredients that reduce swelling and inflammation. Of course, all medications should only be taken or used after a thorough consultation with an ophthalmologist.
In order to ensure that the eyes are back to normal and that the inflammation in question has healed, it is advisable to arrange a follow-up appointment with an ophthalmologist during which it can be determined whether the drug treatment has worked or whether further anti-inflammatory measures are necessary.
Since conjunctivitis can be caused by external stimuli such as smoke, wind or UV radiation, these kinds of stimuli should be avoided, especially if you know that you are susceptible to conjunctivitis. It can also be helpful to protect yourself from these triggers, for example by wearing sunglasses.
However, it is not really possible to prevent viral or bacterial conjunctivitis in a targeted manner.
Bacterial conjunctivitis usually lasts about one to two weeks and may regress on its own or heal after taking antibiotics.
As a rule, a stye will go as quickly as it came: After about a week, the pus usually drains off on its own and the inflammation subsides.