There are several symptoms that may occur with a viral eye infection, depending upon the type of virus causing the infection. Viral conjunctivitis, commonly referred to as pink eye, often produces a filmy discharge and stinging. Other symptoms of a viral eye infection include burning of the affected eye and excessive tears. Pain and redness are other common symptoms of a viral eye infection.
Microbiological infections of the eye may occur when a virus enters the eye. Often, this occurs when a person picks up the virus on his hand and then rubs his eye. Sharing a towel may also spread the infection. The first noticeable sign of a viral eye infection commonly is redness or discoloration around the eye and inside the eye.
Some eye infections will produce more severe symptoms, which may even include blurred vision or subtle changes in vision. If left untreated, this may lead to permanent loss of vision. Other symptoms of more advanced and serious eye infections may include muscle twitching of the eyelid or eye. Swelling of the eyelids is another common symptom of a viral eye infection.
When suffering from a viral eye infection, some people may experience intense itching of the eyelid and inside the eye itself. In some cases, the burning and itching may be mistaken for other conditions, such as seasonal allergies. With infections of the eye, however, there may be noticeable cloudiness affecting vision. In some cases, there may be a discharge of pus from the eye. Crusty skin may form at the corner of the eye or on the eyelid.
Occasionally, viral eye infections can cause permanent scars that form on the cornea. Herpes keratitis, although it generally affects the cornea of the eye, may heal completely with treatment and medication. This type of eye infection may also cause discomfort when the eyes are exposed to bright light.
In rare cases of viral eye infections, damage to the retina may occur. Some advanced symptoms may include constant blinking of the eye and an inability to keep the affected eyelid open. Some experts believe that recurring viral infections of the eye may make the individual more prone to developing other eye diseases, such as glaucoma, later in life.
Although most viral infections of the eye produce symptoms soon after the individual becomes infected, there are cases where the infection lies dormant within the eye. In such a case, symptomatic problems may not develop until long after exposure. Infections of this type may occur in individuals who wear contact lenses, as viruses and bacteria become transmitted through wear. For this reason, many eye doctors discourage the use of contact lenses while sleeping.