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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.  

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Dear Patients,

As of Tuesday evening, March 17th, the CDC has recommended that all routine eye care be deferred until further notice, in order to slow the transmission of COVID-19 through our community.

Please be assured that we are still available to triage all urgent and emergent calls during this challenging time.

We are officially closing our offices effective at 3:00pm today, March 20 th and tentatively plan to reopen on April 1 st . We are rescheduling all routine visits and are available by phone to triage ocular emergencies.

Our phone lines will be open:

Monday the 23 rd and 30 th : 10:00am to 5:00pm

Tuesday-Friday (24 th -27 th and the 31 st ): 9:00am to 3:00pm

What does this mean?

1) If you are scheduled for an annual eye examination we will tentatively reschedule you starting April 1 st

2) If you are running out of a medication please contact us and we can transmit a refill electronically to your pharmacy.

3) If you have an issue which cannot wait for an office visit, contact us and we will schedule a Telephone appointment with one of our doctors. Medicare has temporarily relaxed its telehealth rules to allow this type of communication during the pandemic crisis. Other insurers may follow suit and allow for reimbursement of virtual care costs. The consultation must be initiated at your request.

4) If you have an ocular emergency we are, as always, available to help you at any time. Call 1-850-455-0120 andwait for instructions at the end of the message.

Dr. Leonard or Dr. Charbonneau will discuss your condition by phone and make the best treatment decision for you on a one on one basis.

5) Please remember that 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild and resolve within a week. However, if you feel your symptoms are worsening, call ahead before visiting your doctor’s office or emergency department and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.

The CDC has many wonderful resources. Arming yourself and your family with clear information will help you avoid undue stress.

https://bit.ly/2WxWYIe and https://bit.ly/33FBlXZ

Together we will weather this storm.

With sincerest wishes for your continued good health we remain at your service,

Dr. Clare L Leonard

Dr. Mary Charbonneau

 

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