Nearly a million eye infections require a trip to the doctor or hospital every year, and many of them are related to contact lens use. Please don’t wait to contact the Eye Care Center of Kauai, in Lihue, Hawaii, if you suspect you have an eye infection. It’s important to protect your eye health with an examination because some eye infections can lead to serious complications.

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What causes eye infections?

Eye infections are caused by microorganisms – bacteria, fungi, and viruses – that get into your eye and the surrounding tissues. Bacteria and viruses are the most common causes of eye infections. Fungal eye infections are less likely to occur, but they can be more serious.

Fungal eye infections often develop following an eye injury, especially when the injury was caused by plant-based material, like a stick, because fungi thrive in the soil and on plants. Fungal infections can develop anywhere in the eye, including the cornea and in the fluid inside the eye.

Do contact lenses increase your risk for eye infections?

Anyone who wears contact lenses has a higher risk for bacterial and fungal eye infections. To lower your risk factors, don’t swim or use a hot tub while wearing contact lenses, keep your lenses clean, and always wash your hands before touching your contact lenses.

Which eye infections are contagious?

While almost any type of bacterial and viral eye infection can be contagious, conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is the most common, highly contagious eye infection. When the conjunctiva — the membrane covering the whites of your eyes — is infected, eyes become red, inflamed, and often feel itchy or burning.

Viral conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious because it can be spread by airborne viruses through sneezing and coughing. It’s often associated with common viral upper respiratory infections like the flu or common cold. Viral conjunctivitis produces a watery discharge.

Bacterial conjunctivitis
This type of conjunctivitis can be spread through contact with an infected individual or exposure to contaminated surfaces. It’s commonly caused by staph or strep bacteria, and produces a thick, pus-like discharge

How can you avoid spreading or catching an infectious eye disease?

It’s easy to pass an eye infection to other people, but these tips can significantly reduce your chance of catching or passing along an eye infection:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Don’t rub your eyes with your hands
  • Launder linens you’ve touched
  • Clean your contact lenses, the lens case, and use new solution

When should you visit the Eye Care Center of Kauai?

Any time you have symptoms like red, itchy or watery eyes, drainage, or your lashes are sticking together, you should contact the Eye Care Center of Kauai to schedule an appointment. Some infections have potentially serious complications, so it’s best to protect your eyes with an exam and proper treatment.

If you have any of these symptoms, please seek medical attention:

  • Moderate to severe pain the eyes
  • Vision problems like sensitivity to light or blurred vision that don’t improve after removing discharge
  • Intense redness
  • Symptoms get worse when viral conjunctivitis is suspected