Purulent discharge from the eye: inflammation as the main cause? Can home treatment help?

Purulent discharge from the eye: inflammation as the main cause? Can home treatment help?
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Purulent discharge from the eye is the main sign of inflammation of the eye. What is its cause and can it be caused by drafts? Can it be treated at home and with the help of herbs or other grandmotherly advice?

Purulent discharge of the eye is a typical symptom of inflammation of the eye. It can have several origins and forms. It affects the eye itself or its appendages, such as the conjunctiva and the lacrimal apparatus.

You are most often interested in:
What causes pus in the eye?
Can inflammation arise from draughts?
What does a purulent eye in a baby mean?
How to treat inflammation and whether home-made, grandmotherly advice can help?

Inflammation of the eye and its appendages is caused by a variety of agents. Viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites are all known to cause inflammation. Alternatively, trauma, exposure to chemicals or UV radiation may be involved in the damage.

The factors are basically divided into infectious and non-infectious:

  1. infectious - viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites
  2. non-infectious - allergies, autoimmune diseases, injuries, irritation without subsequent inflammation (chemical fumes, chlorine in the pool, dirt, smoke, tobacco smoke, shampoo, household cleaning products)

Even non-infectious irritation of the eye can become infected with, for example, bacteria and develop into infectious inflammation.

When the eye becomes irritated and red, various difficulties occur, such as:

  • pain in the eye, which may be cutting, burning, stinging or itchy
  • sensation of a foreign body in the eye, sand
  • redness of the eye and conjunctiva, eyelids
  • swelling of the eyelid, conjunctiva
  • feeling of a dry eye
  • excessive tearing
  • impaired/blurred vision, blurred vision
  • increased sensitivity to light
  • lump on eyelid
  • discharge from the eye, which may be
    • watery, clear
    • white, whitish
    • yellow, purulent
      • glued eyelids, eyelashes
      • the discharge dries up and forms yellow drowsiness
      • most pronounced in the morning after waking up

Among the most common causes, especially in childhood, are inflammations that go along with upper respiratory tract infections. Most of them are caused by a virus. Adenovirus infections are frequently encountered in colds and flus. Other very common diseases include influenza.

Next in order are bacterial infections. Others occur less frequently.

Fungal forms usually occur in people with associated diseases. Examples are diabetes, but also weakened immunity.

Bacterial inflammation as the main suspect in purulent discharge from the eye, eyelids

That's right, bacteria are the main factor that triggers eye or eyelid suppuration.

Even under normal, non-poor conditions, our body is colonized by various strains of bacteria. And this applies to the skin and eye area as well.

A good example is the gut and the intestinal microflora, which is richly populated with bacteria.
And it is known to have considerable immune significance.
Read more in the article Probiotics: Bacteria needed for our health?

So why do we get infected with bacteria when it is normal for them to be found on the skin?

There are several factors.

We touch our face and eyes with dirty and soiled hands. We disturb the normal composition of bacteria. They multiply and cause inflammation.

In addition, common minor injuries in the area are also risky. Even more so are injuries that cause surface disruption in the eyelid or eye area.

Reduced eye lens care is also dangerous. With poor hygiene, inflammation is a common complication.

The current state of the immune system also has a great influence.

When the upper respiratory tract is inflamed at the same time, complications occur when microorganisms spread to other parts of the body, either directly or through the blood.

Examples are conjunctivitis and, especially in young children, otitis media.

+ It's the other way around...

The eyes, the conjunctiva and the lacrimal apparatus is the gateway to the body.

In the current era and with the spread of the new coronavirus, protection not only of the respiratory tract but also of the eyes is necessary when coming into contact with a sick person. This is of course also true when protecting the transmission of other infectious diseases.

Yes, we state that the upper respiratory tract is mainly affected by viruses.
Even bacterial infections are not unique.
In addition, superinfection with bacteria is a complication of viral infections.

This is because of a weakened immune system during a viral infection.
Superinfection is a term that refers, for example, to the complication of a viral disease by bacteria.

Bacterial infections of the eye are manifested in addition by other symptoms such as:

  • eye pain, cutting, burning, stinging in the eye
  • feeling of a foreign body in the eye
  • redness of the eye and eyelid
  • impaired and blurred vision
  • photophobia
  • purulent discharge from the eye, eyelids
    • glued eyelids, eyelashes
    • the presence of dry yellow sleepy eyes
    • especially in the morning after waking up

What are the most common forms of inflammatory diseases?

The eye itself may be affected, as well as the accessory organs of the eye.

The accessory organs of the eye are:

  1. the conjunctiva - the tunica conjunctiva, a thin membrane covering the inside of the eyelids and the front of the eyeball, outside the iris area
  2. the eyelids - upper and lower (palpebral)
  3. together with them, the tiny glands for moistening and lubricating the eyelashes and eyelids
  4. eyelashes - cilia
  5. orbit - orbit
  6. lacrimal and lacrimal apparatus - lacrimal gland, lacrimal sac, lacrimal duct (drainage into the nasal cavity)
  7. oculomotor muscles

Forms of disease in the table

  • Conjunctivitis purulenta - bacterial inflammation of the conjunctiva
  • the characteristic feature is purulent inflammation and the presence of prominent dry eyes on waking
  • Attention, children may experience deterioration of general condition, irritability, tension, nervousness, apathy, increase in body temperature
  • the infection usually starts in one eye and moves to the other eye within a few hours or days
  • often caused by Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pneumococcus, E. Coli, Haemophilus, Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonorrhoea)
  • Read more about the disease in the article:
    Conjunctivitis: what causes it in children and adults?
Chlamydial conjunctivitis
  • Otherwise also known as: adult inclusion conjunctivitis
  • ocular chlamydial infection in adolescents and especially sexually active adults
  • as chronic conjunctivitis
  • urinary tract and genital inflammation in both men and women are also associated
    • epididymis, fallopian tubes, cervix
  • Attention: neonates require treatment - neonatal conjunctivitis
Bacterial keratoconjunctivitis
  • a form of inflammation that affects the cornea and conjunctiva at the same time
  • in addition to pus, it presents with eye pain, cutting and burning
  • sensitivity to light increases
  • has a rapid onset in both eyes
Corneal inflammation
  • keratitis - also known as keratitis bacteriale
  • elderly people, diabetics (with diabetes), people using contact lenses (improper use and lack of hygiene), alcoholics and people with weakened immunity are often affected
  • dry eye is also an important factor
  • symptoms
    • painful inflammation
    • discharge of pus
    • gluing of the eyelids
    • visual impairment
    • tearing
    • sensitivity to light
    • redness
Barley grain
  • hordeolum - barley grain
  • as inflammation of the eyelid with the formation of a lump on the eyelid
  • clogged small glands of the eyelids and transfer of bacterial infection
  • wolf's grain - chalazion
    • similar to barley grain, but inflammation affects deeper structures after blockage of the sebaceous gland duct
    • its location is more away from the eyelid margin
  • especially when the vesicle is disrupted, the pus can be defeated externally
  • read more in the article: barley grain or barley on the eye. Why does it occur, how is it treated? (Hordeolum + chalazion)
Chalazion of the eyelid
  • Blepharitis - blepharitis is most often caused by staphylococci
    • the eyelid margins and the glands that produce sebum are affected
    • also known as anterior eyelid blepharitis
    • the cause is often:
      • Inadequate eyelid hygiene
      • touching the eyes with dirty hands
      • minor injuries, burns, scalds
  • Meibomitis
    • when inflammation of the margins progresses deeper into the eyelids and Meibomian glands
    • also referred to as the posterior form
    • malfunctioning and non-functioning sebaceous - oil gland
      • blockage of gland outlet due to excessive sebum, oil production
      • dysfunction, excessive or inadequate function
      • blockage of the duct of the gland, which may subsequently form the basis for infection
    • predisposition: oily skin, dandruff, dry eye syndrome
  • Eyelid abscess and phlegmon
    • Local infection of the eyelid
    • after eyelash plucking
    • passage of infection from upper respiratory tract, sinuses
  • Uveitis and intraocular inflammation, examples include:
    • inflammation of the anterior segment of the eye (uveitis anterior)
      • in addition to the above mentioned conjunctival and corneal involvement
      • Episcleritis and scleritis (inflammation of the white of the eye), iridocyclitis (anterior layers of the eye, iris, ciliary body)
    • inflammation of the posterior segment of the eye (uveitis posterior)
      • endophthalmitis (intraocular inflammation)
      • retinitis (affecting the retina)
      • choroiditis (chorioretinitis)
    • panuveitis - if the whole eye is affected
    • more common non-infectious forms
    • infectious after trauma or eye surgery, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus or E. Coli
  • inflammation of the lacrimal sac - dacryocystitis
  • inflammation of the lacrimal gland - dacryoadenitis
  • inflammation of the lacrimal duct - canaliculitis

What about eye inflammation in children?

In children, eye inflammation often occurs as a complication of an ongoing infectious upper respiratory tract illness, such as a cold or rhinitis.

In older children, eye injury is a risk factor, but also the influence of the external environment, namely dust and small impurities in the air, smoke, wind and draughts.

In the home environment, for example, irritation from cleaning products or shampoo. During the summer, it is also chlorine water.

What about young children?

In the smallest and in babies, inflammation of the eyes is quite common, and so is the presence of sleepy eyes. The cause is anatomical conditions.

The tear ducts become impassable, increasing the risk of inflammation.

Dry eye as a significant factor in inflammation of the eye?

Surely you have already heard about the dry eye syndrome. And precisely the dry surface of the eye and eyelids is a predisposition to infection with bacteria and other microorganisms.

The tear film has a significant defensive role. The eyelids moisten the surface of the eye and wash it when you blink. In addition, it also contains immune cells.

The role of the tear film:

  • Mechanical barrier
  • antibacterial protection
  • washing away foreign substances
  • optical properties
  • eye nutrition and oxygenation

+ It is composed of three layers:

  1. mucinous/glandular layer
    • prevents foreign bodies and epithelial parts from sticking to the eye
    • Protects the surface of the eye
    • helps tears to spread better over the eye and adhere to the eye
  2. aqueous
    • ensures the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the eye
    • contains minerals, electrolytes and enzymes
    • cleanses the surface of the eye of foreign substances and old epithelium
  3. lipoid
    • outer layer
    • is made up of sebum, which forms Meibomian glands
    • prevents tears from evaporating
    • stabilizes the tear film
    • the sebum/oil provides a smooth surface

Dry eye is defined as a failure to wash the ocular surface.
The cause is usually a defect in the tear film.
It is caused by a change in the composition, formation or flow (distribution) of the tear film over the eye.

+ One of the reasons for this is reduced blinking frequency...

Blinking spreads tears over the eye. Impaired tear distribution + reduced eye wetting + reduced eye washing = risk of infection/inflammation.

Manifestations are:

  • dry eye sensation
  • feeling of a foreign object in the eye
  • burning, cutting, itching
  • pressure in the eyes
  • feeling of heavy eyes
  • swelling
  • redness
  • increased eye fatigue
  • sensitivity to light
  • tearing
  • worsening of problems in environments where there is dust, smoke, dryness, cold or air-conditioned rooms, car

Read more in this article:
Dry eye syndrome: Burning and tired eyes? Can dry eye be cured by drops?
Dry eye accompanies Sjogren's (sicca, dry) syndrome.

Diagnosis and treatment/does the home form and grandmotherly advice help?

Even in the case of eye diseases, a professional examination is advisable when problems arise. An eye doctor (ophthalmologist) will first carry out several examinations and recommend the correct course of action and treatment.

The basis is the medical history, which consists of information directly from the affected person. The doctor will examine the eye in general, including the eyelids, conjunctiva and the back of the eye.

When in doubt, an eyelid swab and microbiological analysis can be performed.

Treatment in the case of eye inflammation may be non-specific in the first step. Drops or other topical eye preparations with a disinfectant effect are applied.

If the course is more complicated and the problem more pronounced, antibiotics are injected into the eye. These act directly against the bacteria.

Another type is antiviral drugs or, in the case of allergies, antihistamines and corticosteroids.

Herbs and other old wives' advice can help, you ask?

As an adjunct to treating bacterial inflammation, yes. They may not work as well on their own.

It's all about eye health and also the quality of vision. If the inflammation is severe, there is a risk of permanent vision damage and even blindness.

Therefore, if you are looking for a home prescription, be careful and get yourself examined by a specialist if you have repeated problems.

What will help for purulent discharge from the eye?

There are various supplements that also serve as prevention:

  • a warm compress with a clean swab and liquid on the eyes - for 10 minutes, can be herbal
    • get advice from the pharmacy/eye doctor, safflower, plantain, chamomile, burdock, angelica, depending on the problem
  • Gently massage the eyelids while compressing - 30 seconds over 5 minutes, which helps drain sebum from the glands
  • adequate eye hygiene at least twice a day - cool boiled water and preparations for this purpose, which can be bought in the pharmacy, morning and evening gently wash the eyelids
  • beware of touching your eyes with dirty hands, wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • moisten your eyes with artificial tears, drops, ointments and gels even before going to bed
  • own toiletries and towel/eye drops/make-up
  • do not use foreign towels
  • women should avoid wearing make-up and eyeliner
  • Adequate contact lens hygiene and limit contact lens use at times of inflammation
  • sufficient drinking
  • vitamins (A, C, D), minerals such as zinc
  • allergy sufferers must limit allergens and intolerant foods
  • take breaks when watching TV, watching a monitor and reading, at least every 20 minutes - move your eyes away from the object you are watching to a greater distance
  • humidify the air, especially during heating periods
  • avoid smoky areas
  • beware of irritants
  • wear sunglasses in summer and on slopes - to prevent UV exposure
  • attention to proper ventilation, use of air conditioning and fans
  • wearing glasses, occluder - to correct eye refractive errors
  • protective equipment in hazardous jobs and activities

+ Sick people and children must stay isolated at home for the duration of the illness.

For young children a few little things to look out for:

STEP #1 - Wash your hands before treatment.

Gauze or cotton wool moistened in lukewarm water will help when washing the eyes of young children. Boiled and cooled water is best.

ATTENTION! Not hot water!!!

Gently wipe the eyelid so that you move from the area with pus to the nearest corner of the eye, either the inner or outer corner.

Use one gauze for one eye and a clean gauze for the other eye.

Do not use the same one for both eyes.
Use a new one for each cleaning.

Also be careful that the fluid does not overflow from one eye to the other. Therefore it is advisable if you tilt the child's head gently to one side.

Consult a paediatrician (paediatric doctor) or an ophthalmologist for eye inflammation. Use recommended products, medicines.

Especially if the child is markedly restless.
The eyes, conjunctiva, eyelids are red and swollen.
The body temperature increases.
Other symptoms are associated.
The discharge is more intense and yellow or green in colour.

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Interesting resources

  • solen.sk - INFECTIVE ONEMOCAL INJURY - Radovan Piovarči - in pdf
  • upjs.sk - Protective and accessory organs of the eye in pdf
  • wikiskripta.eu - Bacterial conjunctivitis - expert article
  • webmd.com - What's Irritating My Eyes?
  • healthline.com - What's Causing My Eye Irritation?
  • rbch.nhs.uk - Meibomianitis(Inflamed Glandsin the Eyelids)
  • nhs.uk - Blepharitis
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