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Know How and When to Treat an Eye Infection

It’s that time of year again…coughs, sneezing, running noses and itchy, red eyes.  How do you know when an eye irritation is something that needs medical attention?

First of all, any time an eye infection is accompanied by fever, excessive discharge or pain, you should see your eye doctor immediately.  

The eyes are sensitive and there could be a number of factors that contribute to discomfort and irritation, some of which require medication. There are also some types of eye infections that are very contagious, which you want to treat as soon as possible.

Pink Eye

Pinkeye, also known as conjunctivitis, occurs when the conjunctiva, the thin membrane lining the eyelids and the whites of the eyes, becomes inflamed or swollen. The white part of the eye often also becomes red, thus the name, “Pink Eye”. 

Pinkeye is common among school-aged children because infectious pink-eye can be very contagious and spread quickly in classrooms, but it can occur at any age. The most common cause of pinkeye is a virus, although it can also be due to a bacterial infection or a non-infectious source such as allergies. One or both eyes may be affected. 

The symptoms and treatment for pink eye depend upon the type of pink eye you have.

Typically, bacterial pink eye, which can be treated by an antibiotic eye drops or ointment, is associated with burning, itchy eyes accompanied by a thick, yellow pus-like discharge that makes the eyes difficult to open upon awakening.  This must be treated by antibiotic according to the eye doctor's instructions for a minimum of 5 days, to prevent bacterial resistance.  On occasion if the infection is not responding to topical medications, oral antibiotics may be used. 

Viral pink eye, which can’t be treated by antibiotics, usually runs its course between 1 and 3 weeks. It typically causes teary eyes, swollen lymph nodes and a lighter more translucent mucus discharge. Sometimes the eye symptoms come in conjunction with an upper respiratory infection or a cold.  Viral pink eye is extremely contagious.

Allergic pink eye is often characterized by redness, intense itching, and tears in both eyes and will usually respond to antihistamines, topical vasoconstrictors, or steroid eye drops (which should only be used with a doctor’s prescription).  Eye rubbing can aggravate the itching and swelling, so try to use cool compresses and allergy medication as prescribed.

Preservative-free artificial tears may also provide some relief.  

Any time pink eye symptoms do not improve after a few days, particularly if there is significant discharge, see your eye doctor. Make sure to clean the hands thoroughly after every encounter with the infected eye. 

Styes

Styes are inflamed oil glands or hair follicles on the eyelid (usually along the lash line or under the lid). The inflammation is caused by bacteria and results in a swollen, red and painful bump. Often styes will eventually go away on their own, but if they occur often, a doctor might prescribe topical or oral antibiotics or sometimes even drain it though a minor surgical procedure.  

Warm compresses can be used not only to ease the pressure and discomfort but also to open up the stye to facilitate healing. Styes are typically not contagious. 

Most eye infections are not dangerous but they can be quite uncomfortable.  If you have an eye infection make sure you take the proper steps to stay comfortable and prevent the infection from spreading to your loved ones.  

PROTECTING OUR COMMUNITY

We have been working very hard to prepare to re-open for normal "routine" preventive eye care, taking every precaution to ensure the safety of everyone involved. We are pleased to announce as of Monday May 18th we'll be seeing patients for all types of eye care, including routine annual eye exams.

But, things will be very different than they were prior to the pandemic.

1. Our front door will be locked at all times. We will be allowing only 1 person at a time in the office and by appointment only, so please enter alone, or with no more than l other person accompanying you. Others may wait in the car.

2. Masks will be required for both patients and us while in our office.

3. Upon entering, we will be checking your temperature and screen you for COVID symptoms or possible exposure. If your temperature is 100 F or higher, or you have symptoms or may have recently been exposed to COVID, we will reschedule you.

4. We will need you to respect the 6 feet personal distancing while outside the exam room

5. We will have you wash your hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer when you enter. We will be using hand washing and hand sanitizer constantly and will be disinfecting everything you and we touch. Please don't touch anything that isn't absolutely necessary.

6. For frame selection or picking out glasses, please let us help you, and don't just browse and try on frames by yourself. We have to disinfect the frames every time they are touched or worn, and we need to know which frames need to be disinfected.

We are doing all these things to protect you and all of our other patients as best we can. We will need and depend on your cooperation on this during this very difficult time. Doing so will protect your fellow patients-many of whom are at extremely high risk if they contract COVID - and to protect us. All healthcare providers are putting themselves in harm's way every day during this pandemic - the more we all cooperate and take appropriate precautions, the better off we all will be.

We are all in this together. Thank you for your patience, understanding, and cooperation.

Please stay safe.

Dr. Jim Hutchins and staff