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Can Optometrists Treat Eye Infections?

September 14 2022

If you’ve ever had an eye infection, you know how painful and frustrating it can be. And if you’re not careful, it can lead to permanent vision loss.The good news is they’re easily treatable and an optometrist is the one to handle it.

Read on as a Lake Stevens, WA optometrist talks about eye infections, symptoms to watch for, and how an optometrist would go about treating them.

What Causes Eye Infections?

When you think of an eye infection, you probably picture a red, swollen eye with pus and maybe even a discharge. And that’s exactly what an eye infection is—a bacterial or viral infection in your eyes.

Eye infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites—and some types of infections may even be caused by allergies!

  • Bacteria are usually spread through direct contact with someone who has the bacteria.
  • Viruses are usually spread through direct contact with someone who has the virus.
  • Fungi and parasites can also be spread through direct contact with someone who has them.
  • Allergies can cause eye infections in some cases. If you have allergies, your immune system may overreact to things like pollen or dust. This causes inflammation, which can make it easier for bacteria to grow.

Symptoms of Eye Infection

There are three main symptoms that indicate an infection is present:

  • Redness of the eyes
  • Pain when blinking
  • Discharge from the eyes (or tearing)

These symptoms will appear gradually over time as your body fights off the bacteria that has entered your body through the conjunctiva. This is the clear tissue that covers the white part of your eye (sclera) and the inside of your eyelids. You may also experience headaches, nausea, or vomiting if you have a more serious eye infection.

Potential Long-Term Effects

An eye infection can be one of the most painful things you’ve ever experienced. It’s also one of the most common and preventable illnesses that people suffer from.

But did you know that an untreated eye infection can cause long-lasting damage to your vision?

The cornea is the outermost layer of your eye, and it’s responsible for focusing light on your retina (the lining at the back of your eye). If this layer becomes damaged, it can lead to scarring and vision loss.

How an Optometrist Treats Eye Infections

When an optometrist treats an eye infection, they’ll start by prescribing antibiotic drops that are designed to fight off the bacteria causing the infection. They’ll also prescribe a lubricant that will help keep your eyes moist so they don’t get dry or irritated.

If your infection is severe enough, your doctor may even recommend surgery to remove scar tissue from around your cornea or conjunctiva (the membrane surrounding your eyeball).

Our Advice on Whether Optometrists Can Treat Eye Infections in 2024

What are the symptoms of an eye infection to watch for?

Symptoms of an eye infection to be vigilant about include redness of the eyes, pain when blinking, and discharge or increased tearing. These signs often emerge gradually as the body attempts to combat the invading bacteria or virus. Additional symptoms might include a swollen eye, sensitivity to light, or blurred vision. More severe symptoms could be headaches, nausea, or vomiting. Early detection and treatment are crucial to prevent complications such as vision impairment. If you notice these symptoms, promptly consulting an optometrist is advisable.

What causes eye infections, and how are they spread?

Eye infections are primarily caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites; in some cases, allergies can also trigger them. These infectious agents are usually spread through direct contact with an infected individual’s bodily fluids, contaminated surfaces, or through the air in the case of viral infections. Bacterial and viral infections are the most common, with bacteria often transferred by touching the eyes with unclean hands and viruses spreading quickly among people, especially in crowded environments. Fungal and parasitic infections, though less common, can result from environmental exposure. Allergies can exacerbate or mimic infections by causing inflammation that facilitates bacterial growth.

What are the potential long-term effects of untreated eye infections?

Untreated eye infections can lead to serious, long-term complications, including corneal scarring, which might impair vision or blindness. Infections that spread beyond the eye’s surface can cause more profound eye damage, affecting the retina or optic nerve and potentially leading to irreversible vision loss. Chronic infections can also lead to recurrent symptoms and long-lasting discomfort. In extreme cases, an untreated infection can spread to other parts of the body, posing a risk to overall health. Early detection and treatment are crucial to prevent these severe outcomes and preserve eye health and vision.

Are antibiotic drops effective for treating eye infections?

Antibiotic drops are highly effective in treating bacterial eye infections by directly targeting and eliminating the bacteria causing the infection. They are not effective against viral, fungal, or parasitic infections. For these types of infections, other specific treatments are required. It’s crucial to have a proper diagnosis from an optometrist or ophthalmologist to ensure the correct type of infection is being treated with the appropriate medication. Overuse or misuse of antibiotic drops can lead to resistance, making bacteria more challenging to treat in the future. Hence, they should be used as prescribed.

Why is it important to treat eye infections early and adequately?

Treating eye infections early and adequately is crucial to prevent the progression of the disease, which can lead to more severe complications, including vision impairment or blindness. Early treatment halts the spread of infection, reducing the risk of damage to the cornea and other vital structures of the eye. It also minimizes the chance of the disease spreading to different areas of the body. Proper treatment ensures the infection is targeted effectively, preventing recurrence and the development of antibiotic resistance. Early and appropriate care ultimately preserves eye health, maintains vision quality, and enhances overall well-being.

If you have more questions or wish to schedule a checkup, feel free to call our Lake Stevens, WA optometry office anytime!

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Grandview Optometry


16616 Twin Lakes Ave
Marysville, WA 98271
(Inside Marysville/Smokey Point Costco)


Monday-Friday: 10:00am-6:30pm
Saturday:  9:30am-5:00pm
Sunday: Closed

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