Dry Eye or Eye Infection?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, May 13, 2021

Are your eyes red and irritated? Is it dry eyes or an eye infection?  

To help you out, here are the key differences between dry eyes and eye infections.

Important Note: While learning about these eye problems is helpful, nothing can replace the care and diagnostic skills of an eye doctor.

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned below, schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor near you.

Dry eyes or eye infection? 

Dry eyes

Dry eyes are caused by a chronic lack of eye hydration, brought on by either poor tear quality or insufficient tears.

Individuals suffering from dry eyes will experience any number of the following symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Burning or itchy eyes
  • Grittiness
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes

Dry eyes can be caused by irritants such as heat and air conditioning, dry, windy weather, some health conditions, drugs, the aging process, or too much screen time.

The goal of treating dry eyes is to keep your eyes hydrated, which can often be accomplished by using artificial tears, increasing tear production, treating inflammation in the eyelids, or conserving tears in the eyes.

Eye infections 

Eye infections occur when harmful microorganisms like bacteria, fungus and viruses invade and wreak havoc on the different parts of the eye, such as the conjunctiva and eyelids.

Here are a few common signs:

  • Crustiness around the eyelashes and lids
  • Enlarged lymph nodes near the ear
  • Eye pain or irritation
  • Eye redness
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Yellowy discharge from the eyes

If you suspect that you have an eye infection, don’t take a “wait and see” approach. Prompt treatment will facilitate a speedier recovery and help prevent any possible eye damage.

What to do? 

The key to properly diagnosing and treating any eye condition is a comprehensive eye exam. 

In addition to examining your eyes, your eye doctor may also ask questions about your lifestyle, medical history and family history to better understand your condition.

So, whether you suspect you have dry eye syndrome or an eye infection, schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor near you.