We all know that feeling: The eyes get red and swollen. A foreign body sensation bothers us, there is burning or pain. Almost everyone gets an eye infection at some point in their lives. There is often a harmless irritation behind it, triggered by dust, allergens or prolonged computer work. The cause of the unpleasant symptoms can also be bacterial, viral or fungal infections. Sometimes there is an unnoticed injury behind it, or there is a foreign body in the eye. If the causes are treated too late, this can lead to serious complications and even blindness.

If your symptoms do not subside quickly, you should definitely see your ophthalmologist.

Eye infections caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi usually start in one eye. Rubbing the eyes, wearing make-up, etc. can spread the disease to the second eye. Other people, especially family members, can also be infected. In addition to increased redness and glassy swelling of the eye, infections quickly produce watery, mucous, purulent or even bloody secretions. Concomitant tiny corneal injuries can result in blurred vision.

When doing sports, gardening, DIY or at work: foreign bodies can get into the eye in almost every situation. Small particles usually wash themselves out with tears. However, it is dangerous if the foreign body gets stuck in the conjunctiva or cornea, causes injuries or even penetrates the eye. The same applies to chemicals and other aggressive liquids. Important to know: Bright light and flashes – e.g. laser or welding flashes – can also damage the eye and cause typical symptoms of inflammation, including a foreign body sensation.

If the symptoms can be directly linked to the effects of a foreign body, flashes of light or liquids, you should definitely not hesitate and visit an ophthalmologist or an eye emergency department immediately. But even if the cause is unclear or if you wear contact lenses you should visit your ophthalmologist in the near future. If the symptoms do not subside within a day or two or if the symptoms such as redness, pain and secretion even increase you should have this clarified. In most cases your ophthalmologist can make the correct diagnosis and start an appropriate therapy with a slit lamp examination, a pain-free microscopic examination of the eyes.

A first aid action in the case of imminent eye infections is careful hygiene. Secretions are best removed by rinsing the eye with clear water. To avoid the transmission of bacteria or virus you should always use fresh towels and washcloths and never share them with other people. If you wear contact lenses: Never put your contact lenses in your eyes and – if possible – dispose of the last used ones.


Over-the-counter eye drops and ointments may suppress the symptoms without eliminating the cause. There is a risk of delaying the disease and significantly worsening the healing process. If, on the other hand, the cause is identified and treated early by your ophthalmologist, inflammation and injuries to the eyes usually heal without permanent impairment.