Different types of eye inflammation and their symptoms


Eye infections are common. They usually relate to mild complaints such as redness, swelling, itching and tearing of the eyes, which disappear within a few days. Sometimes the complaints are more serious and there is a risk of permanent damage. We cover the most common forms of eye inflammation.

Also read: Why do your eyes water when you are outside?

Different types of eye inflammation

  1. Bacterial conjunctivitis: This is the most common form of conjunctivitis. This condition is caused by bacteria that live on our skin and cause infection when the immune system is weakened or when the eyes are dry or damaged. If the inflammation begins in one eye, the other often follows quickly.
  2. Viral conjunctivitis: This is a symptom of a common viral infection, usually a respiratory infection. It is often accompanied by cold symptoms and goes away on its own within seven to ten days.
  3. Allergic conjunctivitis: It is caused by environmental allergens falling into the eye. The risk of developing allergic conjunctivitis increases in the spring and summer. The cause can also be an allergy to contact lenses, for example, ointments, contact lens solutions or cosmetics.
  4. Irritation conjunctivitis: The eye can become irritated and inflamed due to, for example, dirt, eye hair, or a smoky, dry, or dusty environment.
  5. Dry eye conjunctivitis: This condition is chronic and is caused by a defect in the functioning of the lacrimal gland.
  6. Blepharitis: It is an inflammation of the eyelids that usually occurs in both eyes along the edges of the eyelids. May cause eye irritation and dry eyes. Blepharitis is a chronic condition that is difficult to treat. It usually develops when the tiny sebaceous glands at the base of the eyelashes become clogged, causing irritation and redness.
  7. Uveitis and ciliary body: Uveitis and ciliary body is an inflammation of the iris (the rainbow membrane) and the ciliary body of the eye. In iridocyclitis, the inflammatory tissue appears in the front part of the eye, between the cornea and the iris. Sometimes the condition is the result of a rheumatic disease or infection, but the cause isn’t always clear.
  8. Uveitis: Uveitis is a very rare eye condition. The inner part of the eye becomes inflamed, including the iris and the choroid. Often the retina and sclera itself are also inflamed.
  9. Episcleritis: In episcleritis, the upper layer of the white of the eye becomes inflamed. The inflammation occurs suddenly and usually in only one eye. A red spot appears in the white of the eye, but the inflammation usually causes no or few complaints. The eyes may be irritated and watery. If you press on your eye, you may feel pain.
  10. Keratitis: With keratitis, there is inflammation of the outermost layer of the eye: the cornea. This type of inflammation is usually only in one eye. If not treated in time, it can cause permanent damage. Keratitis often occurs after damage to the cornea, but this is not always the case.
  11. Dacryocystitis: It is an infection of the lacrimal sac. The lacrimal sac is responsible for producing tearing in the lacrimal gland and draining tears. Blockage of the lacrimal duct causes tears to accumulate in the lacrimal sac, which leads to inflammation.
  12. Hordeolum: A hordeolum (‘villi’) is an inflamed sebaceous gland in the eyelid margin or in the eyelid. Most often, the cause is skin bacteria. If the drainage duct of this gland becomes blocked, the gland’s fat can leak into the surrounding tissues. Then a sebaceous granuloma is formed, which is also called chaff or barley grain.
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Also read: What can you do against eye irritation?

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Last updated: July 2023

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Megan Vasquez

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