What is Eye Inflammation?
An inflammation of the eye generally occurs in response to viral or bacterial infection, allergies, environmental irritants, surgery or trauma. While most cases of eye inflammation are not too serious, it is important to control the severity of the inflammation as well as the duration to be sure to avoid any scarring and permanent damage.
Because the eyes are such delicate organs, even a small amount of scar tissue can cause irreversible visual impairment.
Types of Eye Inflammations
There are many different types of eye inflammations depending on what area of the eye becomes inflamed, each condition differing in its symptoms and severity:
- Conjunctivitis - commonly known as pinkeye, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the clear membrane that covers the outermost layer of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. Many causes are associated with this condition including bacterial and viral infections, allergies and eye irritants.
- Episcleritis - an inflammatory condition of the episclera which is the connective tissue between the conjunctiva and sclera. The cause of episcleritis is uncertain.
- Blepharitis – an inflammation of the eyelids, often as the result of poor hygiene, chronically dry eyes or oily skin.
- Keratitis – an inflammation of the cornea region of the eye. This is often caused by bacterial or fungal infections and is increasingly prevalent in those with poor contact lens hygiene.
- Uveitis – an inflammation of the eyeball which is generally considered to be one of the more serious forms of eye inflammation. There are also a number of types of Uveitis depending on what area of the eye ball is infected and these may include: Iritis, Cyclitis, Retinitis and Choroiditis.
- Scleritis - an inflammation of the sclera or white of the eye.
Natural Remedies for Eye Inflammation
In many cases, eye inflammations are a bother more than anything else and tend to go away soon enough. Some cases however, are more serious and should be treated accordingly. Whatever the cause, nature has a few effective herbal and homeopathic remedies that can help with over-all eye health, thus promoting recovery and preventing complications to begin with!
- Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) is a well known and commonly used herb for eye health for strengthening eye capillaries, preventing eye-related disease and infection, and restoring the eyes to a problem-free state.
- Aspalathus linearis (Rooibos) and Sutherlandia frutescens are other herbal ingredients that work as effective anti-oxidants used to maintain a healthy supply of blood, oxygen and essential nutrients to the eye – all of which are essential to the rapid recovery from any eye condition.
- Echinacea, Olea europea, Astragalus membranaceous, and Propolis (a bee product) have been used for many years as immune system strengtheners, as it is known that a strong and healthy immune system is vital in protecting against any infection, including infections of the eye and eye allergies.
Diagnosing Eye Inflammation
Swollen eyes are generally fairly noticeable and may include visible swelling, sensations of heat and pain and redness, all of which are caused by an increased flow of blood to the affected area.
What Causes Eye Inflammation?
Eye inflammations can be caused by a variety of factors, and sometimes it takes a professional diagnosis for insight into the source.
Common Causes of Eye Inflammations:
- Allergies: A fairly common cause of eye inflammation, allergies can cause persistent eye irritation. Allergic rhinitis triggered by pollen, seasonal changes, house dust-mites, molds or pets can often result in itchy and inflamed eyes.
- Bacterial and viral infections: The most common bacterial infection is conjunctivitis, a highly contagious viral infection also known as pink eye. Blepharitis, or chronic inflammation of the eyelid caused by infection, is also a common problem. Styes, or tiny painful infections that form in the oil glands around the eyelash, can also be a bothersome problem. Most commonly, these problems occur from improper contact lens wear, surgery, trauma, injury to the eye, or touching the eyes with unclean hands.
- Overuse of prescription and over the counter eye drops: Many people use eye drops to soothe mildly irritated eyes and prolonged use can cause a “rebound affect”. This is when your eyes become sore and irritated until you use the drops again, thus creating a kind of dependency on the eye drop affect.
- A deficiency of vitamin A: This may make you more susceptible to eye infections and other eye problems.
- Improper contact lens use: A common cause of inflammation or infection if hygienic measures are not taken or are worn past their intended period of use (allowing bacteria overgrowth). Hands should be washed before putting in and taking our contact lenses, the correct solution should be used and proper storage methods kept. Problems also occur when particles get trapped between the lens and the eye, causing irritation, or the lenses are worn too long.
- Illness and disease: Measles, herpes, and diabetes may cause eye inflammation. Sexually transmitted diseases are also easily spread to the eye area. Inflammatory conditions such as lupus, arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome can also be causes.
- Foreign matter or foreign substances: Dust, grit or plant-sap can get trapped under the eyelid, causing inflammation and discomfort.
- Cosmetics: Certain eye cosmetics can cause irritation, whether from personal sensitivity or if they have exceeded their expiration date.
Causes of Eye Inflammation in Babies and Children
Babies may contract eye infections during passage through the birth canal, and precautions should be taken if the mother is a known carrier of a transmittable disease.
As children do not have fully developed immune systems, they are more susceptible to contract eye infections. Contact with other young children in school or daycare, rubbing their eyes, and poorly developed tear drainage can all lead to infection and irritation. One of the most common infections in young children is conjunctivitis (pink eye). Especially because the symptoms are pain and/or itching, resisting rubbing can be very difficult if not impossible to control in young children.
Eye injuries leading to discomfort and inflammation to both babies and children can occur from accidents while playing, sharp objects, exposure to harmful cleaning or household products. Proper care should always be taken to help avoid permanent damage.
Help for Eye Inflammation
Help and treatment of eye inflammations depends on what area of the eye is inflamed, the severity and the cause of the condition. While some eye inflammations, such as those caused by allergies, are generally not serious, others such Scleritis and Uveitis often need prompt medical attention.
Conventional Medical Treatment
Medical treatment ranges from antibiotic eye lotions and drops, to over the counter solutions, antihistamine tablets and corticosteroids depending on cause and type of eye inflammation. It is important to make sure you know all the side effects of any medication you may be considering as sometimes the medical treatment causes more complications than the actual eye inflammation!
Make a warm or cold compress by using a clean cloth or cotton swab. Use only boiled or purified water to wet the cloth and place this on the closed eye. A warm compress typically helps to reduce discomfort, while a cold compress works well to reduce itchiness and inflammation.