Blindness to death; top eye infections that can have disastrous consequences

Feb 23, 2022 12:05 PM IST

Struggling with persistent eye symptoms like red, watery eyes, blurry vision or dry eyes? Do not ignore eye infections as they can lead to blindness, severe complications and even death.

It is difficult to imagine a normal life without our precious eyes, yet we take them for granted most of the times. Symptoms like redness of eyes, watery eyes, blurry vision and dry eyes are often ignored as minor problems and not addressed seriously. While most of these symptoms resolve on their own, in rare cases, if left untreated they can lead to serious complications from blindness to death.

Eyes are the first organ to give us a sneak peak into the possible systemic disease and also in confirming the diagnosis.(Pixabay)
Eyes are the first organ to give us a sneak peak into the possible systemic disease and also in confirming the diagnosis.(Pixabay)

A review published in National Library of Medicine says that while most ocular infections are benign, others can be associated with devastating visual consequences. Most patients present with either ocular discharge, visual symptoms or a red or painful eye.

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Experts are of the view that some diseases and infections may manifest first as an eye symptom because eyes are the only organ in the body where neurons and blood vessels can be directly visualized and hence the first organ to give us a sneak peak into the possible systemic disease and also in confirming the diagnosis.

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"With advancement in medical sciences, the idea that eyes are only for vision has changed. Some diseases of the eye can cause loss of vision and in some rare events, become fatal if neglected or diagnosed in an advanced stage," says Dr. Pooja A Angadi, Senior Consultant, Sharp Sight Eye Hospitals.

"The eye is considered to be the anatomical extension of the brain and so serious infections of the eye can spread to the brain. Newer drugs, newer technologies have led to advancement in treatment," adds the expert.

Mucormyosis and Aspergillosis of the eye are two of the infections which once held a small note in ophthalmology textbooks have now become common in Covid-19 era. These have been known to have fatal implications if untreated.

Here's a list of eye infections that can have devastating consequences if left untreated:

1. Rhino orbital Cerebral mucormycosis: Commonly known as the Black fungus it is an uncommon infection caused by Mucorales and has a high morbidity and mortality rate. "It occurs mainly in immunocompromised patients like those with uncontrolled diabetes, cancer, post organ transplantation, on chronic steroid therapy and as of late it has been seen in patients with severe Covid infection. The fungus invades the blood vessels entering through the nasal cavity and spreading to the sinuses and orbit and finally reaching the brain which can be deadly," says Dr Angadi.

2. Aspergillosis: Similar to mucormycosis, orbital aspergillosis occurs in immunocompromised patients and has the same passage from nasal cavity to the orbits and subsequently gaining access to the brain.

"Intracranial extension can lead to brain abscess, vasculitis, thrombosis and eventually cerebral ischemia and necrosis which can be fatal," adds Dr Angadi.

3. Conjunctivitis (pink eye): "Conjunctiva is a thin layer of tissue covering the whites of the eyes and insides of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis can be described as an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva. The symptoms are itchiness and watery discharge. One may get this infection in one eye or both. It can be serious if not treated at the right time," says Dr Ashwini Seth, Ophthalmologist at Apollo Spectra in Karol Bagh Delhi.

"Mortality in the setting of bacterial conjunctivitis is related to the failure to recognize and treat the underlying disease. Sepsis and meningitis caused by N gonorrhoeae can be life-threatening," according to Medscape.

4. Blepharitis: It is an inflammation of the eyelids, and is seen due to bacterial infection, allergies, clogged oil glands in the eyelids, and certain skin conditions.

"One may notice symptoms such as redness and swelling of the eyelids, burning and watery eyes, flaky skin around the eyes. Blepharitis will not lead to blindness, but it can invite several other complications like the eyelashes may fall out or growing in strange directions," says Dr Seth.

5. Uveitis: It is inflammation of the uvea (the middle layer of the eyeball containing the iris.). It is associated with various conditions like psoriasis, herpes zoster infection, or rheumatoid arthritis. One may notice symptoms like blurry vision, redness of the eyes, and floaters, according to Dr Seth.

6. Keratitis: It is known as the inflammation or infection of the cornea (the clear outer layer on the colored part of the eye. The misuse of contact lenses can be the culprit behind the infection.

"Wearing lenses for extended hours, not cleaning them and improper storage of them can raise the risk of germs getting into the cornea. Neglecting it and not seeking immediate treatment can lead to scarring on the cornea and permanent loss of vision," says Dr Seth.

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