What Are the Symptoms of a Bacterial Eye Infection?

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  • Written By: Bethney Foster
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Image By: Jj Hall
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2014
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The most common symptoms of a bacterial eye infection are red, swollen, and itchy eyes. Eyes may water and release a yellow or green discharge. In some instances, the skin around the eyes and the eyelids may become flaky. Someone with an infection may also experience eye pain, sensitivity to light, and in some instances, he or she may even have blurred vision.

Any eye inflammation, whether it is caused by a bacterial infection, viral infection, or eye injury, is referred to as conjunctivitis. Commonly, conjunctivitis is referred to as pink eye. Bacterial conjunctivitis is the most common type and causes inflammation in the membranes in the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. With this type of infection, the symptoms often begin with inflammation that is present only in one eye, but the infection and symptoms often spreads to the other eye.

The most common bacteria that cause infection in the eyes are Staphylococci and Streptococci. A person with one of these bacterial infections may wake to crusty eyes that are difficult to open. This occurs because of the accumulation of discharge during sleep. It may be necessary to apply a compress soaked in warm water to the eyes to loosen the discharge so that the eyes can be completely opened.


Bacterial eye infections occur when some type of bacteria enters the eye and begins reproducing. The most common sources of bacteria are the sinuses, contact lenses, and direct contact with another person who has a contagious eye infection. Additional symptoms include burning of the eyes and the eyes feeling irritated and gritty. This sensation is often worse upon first waking.

When a bacterial eye infection is present, eye makeup and contact lenses should not be used. To prevent spread of bacteria, makeup, contact lens supplies, and bath and bed linens should not be shared with other people. Frequent hand washing is the best practice to prevent spreading an eye infection.

Another type of eye condition caused by a bacterial infection is a stye. A stye occurs when the oil glands along the edges of the eyelid become infected. The primary symptom is a pimple-like bump on the edge of the eyelid. A stye is sensitive to touch, and the eyelid is tender. A person may also experience sensitivity to light, additional tearing, and a gritty sensation in the eye.


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