What is eye inflammation?
Inflammation is a process by which bodies react against infection, injury or irritation. Inflammation may occur due to quite harmless substances such as dust or even pollen grains. Body’s immune system can also react against its own tissues to cause an autoimmune reaction. Inflammation of the eye occurs in response to irritation, injury, autoimmune disorders, or allergies. An inflamed eye often appears red, watery and in most cases, painful. Such eye inflammation affects all ages and lasts from a few minutes to months and years depending on the causative agent or other underlying disease conditions. It can affect one eye or both the eyes.
What are the signs and symptoms of an inflamed eye?
Inflammation of eyes can affect the surrounding soft tissues such as eyelids. The primary signs of inflammation include redness of the eye, swelling, increased warmth in the affected eye and excessive tearing. Other symptoms are causal in nature. These include-
Bruising: It is mainly observed on the eyelids. Bruising usually stems from an eye trauma/injury.
Increased Sensitivity: The affected eye has an increased sensitivity to bright light (photophobic). Other visual changes that may be noticed are blurred vision or loss of vision.
Pus Discharge: There is increased pus discharge in the affected eye. It is noticeable in the morning with the stickiness of the eyelids.
Bulging of Eyes: Bulging or protruding of the eye signifies swelling of the eyes.
Watery Eyes: Affected areas secrete excessive tears due to irritation.
Dryness: Depending on the underlying diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, dryness of mucous membrane occurs. Dry eyes tend to become itchy and gritty.
Other prominent symptoms include general body swelling (edema), respiratory problems or change in level of consciousness, which indicate a serious problem and it is advisable to visit a physician.
What are the causes of eye inflammation?
Eye inflammation is a response to infections, allergies, injury to the eye, or autoimmune diseases. Some of the common causes of eye inflammation include:
Allergic reaction: Many individuals develop allergic reactions to substances which are not compatible with their body. Reaction to environmental allergens such as dust and pollen grains is the most common cause of irritation of the eye which leads to inflammation. Other common allergic substances include drugs, some foods, and insect bites such as bee sting.
Infections: Eye inflammation due to infections is common in people with low hygiene standards. Cleaning eyes twice a day, in the morning and before sleep at night, is advised to prevent infections. Women who use mascara are advised to wash their make-up before sleeping to prevent its adverse reaction with eyes.
Traumatic Injury: The eye is prone to injuries due to its exposure to the environment. Common injuries that cause eye inflammation include blunt trauma, corneal abrasion, irritants such as chemicals, orbital fractures or insect bites.
Autoimmune diseases: Inflammation of the eye could be a manifestation of an underlying autoimmune disease. In such a case, the body might develop inflammatory response towards tissues of the eyes. Some of the common diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, Behcet’s syndrome (cause ulcers and abrasions), and Sjogren’s syndrome (cause dryness of mucous membranes causing itchiness).
Contact lenses: People who use contact lenses are at a higher risk of getting an inflamed eye. Contact lenses should be kept clean to avoid importation of irritant substances and infections into the eye.
How is an inflamed eye treated?
In many cases inflammation of the eye does not need treatment as it lasts for a few minutes. In case the inflammation exceeds four days, there is a need to see the doctor to determine any underlying causes.
Inflammation of the eyes can be relieved in the following ways:
1. Clean the eyelids in the morning and evening.
2. Rub gently from outside to inside with a wet cotton swab.
3. Lay a warm wet cloth on the eyes. This relieves the symptoms of the inflamed eye.
4. Avoid wearing contact lenses as they can worsen the symptoms of eye inflammation.
5.Visit the doctor for comprehensive treatment. The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation while evaluating any underlying diseases.