An eye infection is a very common problem that can affect people of any age. The infection can be due to bacteria, viruses, allergies or other microbiological means and can affect one or both eyes.
There are many different types of eye infections, such as:
- Conjunctivitis or pink eye: This infection causes the eye to redden as well as causes irritation. It is usually due to a virus, but can sometimes be bacterial or an allergic reaction.
- Sty or hordeolum: This is caused by staphlococcal bacteria that live on the skin surface. It leads to the formation of a red lump on the eyelid or at the base of an eyelash. It can be itchy or painful.
- Blepharitis: This happens when tiny oil glands near the base of the eyelashes become clogged and the eyelids become infected. It leads to intense itching and burning sensations. It can also cause intermittent tearing and a feeling that something is in the eye.
- Orbital cellulitis: In this bacterial infection, the tissues surrounding the eye become infected. It can be a dangerous infection and may lead to lasting problems.
- Keratitis: This infection involving bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites is mainly caused due to presence of a foreign body in the eye, which causes injury to the cornea.
- Dacryocystitis: This infection occurs in the tear duct.
Immune deficiencies, trauma, surgery, exposure to harmful chemicals, poor hygiene and exposure to someone with a contagious eye infection can also lead to infections of various types.
A few common symptoms of eye infections are excessive tearing, redness, swollen eyelids, pain, itching, a feeling of sand in the eye, yellow discharge or crusting around the eye.
The symptoms may vary in intensity from mild to severe, depending on the extent and type of infection.
While an eye infection typically causes no permanent issue and is rarely a serious health concern, it can cause a lot of discomfort.
However, it is important to first get it checked by a doctor to rule out any serious condition that could damage the retina, blood vessels or optic nerve within the eye, if left untreated.
In the meantime, you can try many easy, inexpensive and effective home remedies to reduce the symptoms and speed up the healing process.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for eye infections.
1. Warm Compresses
This is one of the most effective remedies for styes or conjunctivitis. The heat from the warm compress increases blood circulation to the area and promotes healing. It also helps reduce pain and swelling and prevent further infection.
- Dip a clean, lint-free towel in hot water and wring out the excess liquid.
- Hold this warm, moist cloth on your closed eyelid for 5 minutes at a time.
- Repeat a few times more.
- Clean any oily debris or scales collected on the eyelids or eyelashes using a clean cloth.
- Use this treatment several times a day until you feel better.
Note: If the infection is in both the eyes, use separate warm compresses for each eye.
Eyebright (euphrasia) is another effective herbal treatment for eye infections and irritation, especially conjunctivitis or pink eye.
The infection-fighting and fluid-drying power of eyebright speeds up the healing process and prevents spreading of the infection.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine notes that euphrasia single-dose eye drops is effective for various conjunctival conditions.
- Simmer 1 teaspoon of eyebright herb in 1 cup of water for about 10 minutes. Allow it to cool, then strain it using a clean cheesecloth. Use this solution as an eye wash, a couple of times daily.
- You can also use homeopathy euphrasia 10% eye drops to get rid of eye irritation or inflammation. Put one drop in each eye a few times a day daily until the infection clears.
3. Saline Solution
You can use a homemade saline solution to get rid of an eye infection. A saline solution rinse is good for irritated, inflamed and itchy eyes.
It helps wash away debris collected in the eyes and controls the infection, thus ensuring that the infection does not spread.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water.
- Boil the solution and allow it to cool completely.
- Use it to thoroughly rinse the affected eye.
- Do this home treatment a couple of times a day.
Note: If possible, use distilled water since tap water may contain chemicals and impurities.
4. Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver can also be used to reduce eye irritation and itching caused by viral and bacterial infections.
It contains tiny silver particles suspended in water that, when used as eye drops, pick up the infected cells by attracting them electromagnetically. These infected cells are then sent into the bloodstream to be eliminated.
- Put 2 drops of colloidal silver in each eye and blink a little. Use it twice a day until the infection clears.
- Another option is to buy over-the-counter colloidal silver ointment and apply it around the eyes to prevent itching.
Honey has antibacterial properties that can kill harmful bacteria in the eye that may be causing an infection.
A 2006 study published in Cornea highlights the antibacterial effect of honey on the ocular flora in tear deficiency and meibomian gland disease.
For best results, use manuka honey or organically raised honey.
- Thoroughly mix equal parts of honey and distilled water. Using a clean cotton ball, apply the solution to the eye. Use this treatment 2 or 3 times a day until symptoms have cleared.
- You can also put a drop of honey directly in the eye. Through natural tearing, the honey will help get rid of any dirt, debris or discharge in the eye. Use it 2 or 3 times a day.
6. Green Tea
Green tea is rich in tannic acid that can help keep infections at bay. It can provide relief from itchy eyes as well as reduce under-eye puffiness. It also contains a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that contribute to overall eye health.
- Soak 2 green tea bags in hot water for a few seconds.
- Remove the bags from the water, squeeze out the excess water and put both the tea and the tea bags in the refrigerator to cool.
- First, use the cool tea to wash your eyes.
- Then, place the cold, moist tea bags on your closed eyes for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Repeat up to 3 times a day until the symptoms are gone.
Instead of green tea bags, you can use black tea bags.
Chamomile is known for its anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making it incredibly effective for treating conjunctivitis. Its soothing and calmative properties help reduce redness, irritation and under-eye puffiness.
- Put 1 teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers in a cup of boiled filtered water. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and let it cool down to room temperature. Use this solution to clean the inner as well as outer eye. Repeat every couple of hours throughout the day.
- You can also put used chamomile tea bags in the refrigerator. Put them on your closed eyelids for not more than 10 minutes at a time to help reduce swelling. Use this remedy a couple of times a day.
8. Boric Acid
Boric acid can help deal with eye infection-related problems, such as redness, dryness, a burning sensation and tearing. Its mild antibacterial and antifungal properties help treat the infection and soothe irritation.
- Mix 1/8 teaspoon of medicinal grade boric acid in 1 cup of filtered water.
- Bring the solution to a boil, then allow it to cool.
- Strain the solution through a clean cheesecloth.
- Use the solution as an eyewash.
- Repeat up to 3 times a day. Use fresh solution each time.
Note: A slight stinging or burning may occur with use, but soon it will go away.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
For treating pink eye, apple cider vinegar is highly effective. The malic acid in unpasteurized apple cider vinegar works like an antimicrobial agent, which helps fight bacterial infections. It even helps remove germs and debris from the eyes to promote healing.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a glass of filtered water.
- Dip a cotton ball in this solution.
- Use it to thoroughly wash the outside of the infected eye.
- Repeat every few hours for a few days.
10. Breast Milk
This remedy is highly effective and safe for getting rid of pink eye, especially in babies.
Breast milk contains certain antibodies, particularly immunoglobulin E, which prevents infection-causing bacteria from attaching to the mucosal surface of the eye. This in turn limits the growth of the bacteria, helping the infection heal quickly.
- Put a little breast milk into a cup.
- Using a clean eye dropper, put 2 or 3 drops of breast milk into the infected eye.
- Reapply every couple of hours or as needed.
Breast milk is effective in treating ear infections in babies, too.
- Splash cold water on your eyes a few times daily to strengthen your eyes.
- You can use over-the-counter eye drops to relieve symptoms associated with infections.
- Rinse your eyes with pure rosewater at least twice a day. You can also use rosewater as eye drops for instant relief from itching.
- Dilute a small amount of tearless baby shampoo in 1 cup of water and use it to clean out any debris in or around the eye.
- During an infection, avoid wearing lenses for several days.
- Do not touch your infected eyes without washing your hands first.
- Do not share towels or bedding with anyone to prevent spreading the infection.
- Do not wear eye makeup and avoid sharing eye makeup or applicators when you have an eye infection.
- Keep hand sanitizers, cleansers and anti-infective sprays handy and use them accordingly.
- If the eye infection does not get better in a few days, consult your doctor.