Signs and Symptoms of Common Eye Infections

Oct 01, 2023
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Your eyes are susceptible to a lot of viruses, bacteria, and debris floating around out there, causing irritation and worse. Here’s how to tell when those pathogens have invaded and infected your eyes.

About a million people a year visit their doctor for eye infections, and many wear contact lenses. Although they’re a convenient and discreet alternative to eyeglasses, contact lenses require you to touch your eyes and your lenses, increasing the chance of introducing bacteria into your eyes. 

Keeping your contact lens routine sterile helps, but even the most diligent person can end up with an eye infection. In fact, anyone can get an eye infection — contacts or not.

As there are several eye infections, Dr. Sophia Barnes at Vision Corner in Houston, Texas, offers this guide for spotting the signs of common eye infections so you know when to seek medical attention.

Different types of eye infections

Although all eye infections cause changes in how your eye looks and feels, each type of infection has its own set of symptoms. However, some symptoms are common to several types of infection, making them difficult to self-diagnose — and that’s where Dr. Barnes comes in.

Meanwhile, here are the common signs of the most prevalent eye infections.

Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Pink eye occurs when outside pathogens — bacteria, viruses, or allergens — infect your eye’s conjunctiva, the tissue that lines the inside of your lids and covers your eyeballs. Symptoms include:

  • Whites of the eyes turning red
  • Inner lid redness
  • Thick white, yellow, or green discharge
  • Blurred vision
  • Swelling
  • Light sensitivity
  • Itching, burning, and gritty feeling

Bacterial and viral pink eye are highly contagious and can affect one or both eyes. 


Blepharitis is an inflamed eyelid. This infection can infect the exterior or interior of your eyelid and cause:

  • Redness and irritation

  • Itching and burning

  • Excessive tearing or dry eyes

  • Frequent blinking

  • Flakiness or crusting on your lids and lashes

  • Blurry vision

  • Light sensitivity

Blepharitis usually occurs when the oil glands in your eyes become blocked. Dandruff, rosacea, and lice can increase your risk of developing blepharitis.


A stye in your eye is an infection that forms a pimple-like bump on the edge of your eyelid. It develops when your eyelash follicles get clogged and can appear internally or externally. When you have a stye, you experience:

  • A red, painful pimple on your lash line
  • Excessive tearing
  • Swelling
  • Light sensitivity
  • Crusty eyes
  • The feeling that you have something stuck in your eye

Styes aren’t extremely contagious, but the bacteria that cause them can transfer from person to person with direct contact — so avoid touching your eyes and wash your hands often.


Uveitis is an umbrella term that covers several causes of eye inflammation. It can affect one or both eyes and could involve different eye parts, including your retina, uvea (the middle layer), and sclera (the whites of your eyes). The most common uveitis symptoms are:

  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Redness
  • Eye pressure and pain
  • Dark shapes in your field of vision (floaters)
  • Vision loss

Eye trauma, surgery, viral illnesses, and inflammatory diseases put you at a high risk of developing uveitis, which can result in permanent blindness if you don’t get treated.


Cellulitis is an eye infection that affects your skin, a common condition in the legs and lower extremities. When cellulitis affects the skin around your eyes, you feel:

  • Tenderness and pain
  • Warmth and swelling
  • Rashy discoloration
  • Blistering
  • Textural changes in the skin
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, and fatigue

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection — Staphylococcus (staph) and Streptococcus (strep) are the most common culprits — often stemming from poor hygiene. It’s not overly contagious unless someone has skin-to-skin contact with an open wound.

Treating eye infections

This list highlights a few of the more common eye infections, but others, such as endophthalmitis and dacryocystitis, exist. Dr. Barnes can diagnose and treat all types of eye infections and help you avoid serious complications, including vision loss. 

Depending on the underlying cause, your eye infection may require antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, antihistamines, or anti-inflammatories to fight the pathogens and restore your eye health. 

If you wear contact lenses, you may need to switch to glasses until your eye infection resolves.

If you suspect you have an eye infection, call or click to schedule an appointment at Vision Corner.