How is an eye infection treated?

Treatment of your eye infection begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. Treatment approaches used will depend on the type and severity of your eye infection. Viral eye infections generally resolve on their own. Bacterial eye infections often require antibiotics. In many cases, self-care measures and home treatments can make an eye infection less uncomfortable.

Symptomatic treatment for eye infections

Viral eye infections and very mild bacterial infections often resolve on their own. Often, self-care measures at home and over-the-counter medications will manage your symptoms. Treatments include:

  • Applying a cool compress on the eyelids several times a day for 10 to 15 minutes to help soothe itching, swelling or pain. Be sure to dispose of the compress after use to avoid spreading the infection.
  • Applying a warm, damp compress on the eyelids several times a day to help clear crusting on the eyelid margins
  • Using over-the-counter eye-drops or artificial tears may help soothe your eyes and relieve symptoms

Medical treatment for eye infections

If you have a bacterial eye infection that does not resolve quickly, your health care provider may prescribe antibiotic ointment or drops. Bacterial infections tend to lead to more discharge from the eye than viral infections do, but only your physician can determine what kind of eye infection you have. Be sure to use any antibiotic exactly as prescribed, and complete the entire treatment even if your eyes feel better, to avoid having your eye infection return.

What are the potential complications of an eye infection?

Most eye infections are not serious. However, in some cases, or with preexisting conditions, an eye infection may be more serious and jeopardize your vision and even your health. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Left untreated, eye infections can lead to serious complications including:

  • Change in the growth or position of the eyelashes, resulting in abrasion and irritation of the eye surface
  • Corneal damage and scarring, resulting in vision impairment
  • Loss of vision and blindness
  • Orbital cellulitis (invasive infection of the soft tissues around the eye)
  • Spread of infection


  1. Eye infections. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Pink eye: usually mild and easy to treat. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is an eye infection?

An eye infection is a bacterial or viral infection of the eye or the tissue immediately surrounding the eye. Common eye infections include conjunctivitis, often called pink eye, which affects the membrane that lines the inside of your eyelids and covers the whites of the eyes, and blepharitis, which affects the eyelid margin. Although infections of the cornea, the clear “window” over the center... Read more about eye infectionintroduction


What are the symptoms of an eye infection?

Symptoms of eye infection commonly include itching, redness, swelling, increased tearing, discharge from the eye, and crust formation around the eye. Symptoms often come on quickly and usually last for one to two weeks with viral infections. Symptoms of bacterial infections will usually clear sooner with antibiotic treatment. Eye infections can often occur in just one eye, but can quickly sprea... Read more about eye infectionsymptoms


What causes an eye infection?

Eye infections are almost always caused by either a virus or bacterial infection. Bacteria normally live on your skin, but irritation or a small injury in the eye can let the bacteria into areas where they do not usually reside, causing an infection.

You can also get an eye infection from a virus or from a type of bacteria that does not usually inhabit your skin. In these cases, y... Read more about eye infectioncauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision

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