Our eyes are constantly protected by the continuous flow of tears containing antibacterial compounds. However, this does not ensure absolute protection from the external environment. Harsh contact with foreign objects can still yield a response favorable to bacterial infections. Contact lenses can cause inflammation if improperly handled. Trauma induced on the eyes can also invite microorganisms to infect the organ. As airborne bacteria can easily be found in an urban environment, our eyes are constantly in danger of being infected by these pathogens. The diseases we will discuss will include these specific pathogens and describe how they normally live and thrive in our environment. This will help us in determining how we can avoid these microorganisms and prevent the diseases they can induce.
The basis of this article is a systematic review published in 2017. It discusses the different bacteria that are responsible for several human eye infections. In the review, the researchers discussed four common infections derived from bacteria. These include conjunctivitis, blepharitis, endophthalmitis, and dacryocystitis. We will discuss each of them in terms of one of the most common microbes in the bacterial profile of the disease. We will also discuss the disease’s symptoms, causes, and prevention.
Staphylococcus aureus and Conjunctivitis
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a very common bacteria normally found harmless in the human body. It can be found on human skin and in the nasal area. While conjunctivitis is most observed in children, S. aureus can still infect adults as the major contributor to the disease.
Conjunctivitis is the most frequent eye disease characterized by an inflamed eye. This disease is also called pink eye due to the nature of the inflammation. Bacteria cause the disease 50-70% of the time. Other causes include allergies and infections from other microorganisms such as viruses, fungi, amoeba, and parasites.
Although conjunctivitis is not commonly regarded as a serious disease, chronicity can lead to disorders in adjacent tissue structures such as the eyelid. Prevention of the disease includes the knowledge that the active bacteria in the infection is S. aureus. As a common pathogen found everywhere, these are the prevention tips for conjunctivitis:
- Be mindful of fluids coming from the nasal area. Never let them come into contact with your eyes as S. aureus thrives in that area.
- Regularly wash your hands as S. aureus is naturally found in the skin.
- Do not share items used for the skin. Common culprits are bath towels and handkerchiefs.
Coagulase Negative Staphylococci and Blepharitis
The most prominent bacteria in blepharitis include the S. aureus and the Coagulase Negative Staphylococci (CoNS). Since we have discussed the S. aureus from the previous disease, we will now explore the CoNS.
Similar to S. aureus, CoNS are also normally found in the human skin and nasal area. They thrive in humid body regions, such as the armpits, buttocks, and groin regions. Scientists named CoNS as such because they do not have coagulase, which means that they cannot form a thrombus or coagulation of blood that can hinder blood flow.
CoNS is one of the major contributors to blepharitis. Blepharitis is an inflammation in the eyelids that can cause dry eyes and loss of eyelashes. Individuals with the disease exhibit redness, itchiness, and swelling of the eyelids.
Blepharitis can also spread throughout other parts of the eye. To prevent this, you should still follow the previously listed tips on Staphylococcus aureus and Conjunctivitis, along with these additional tips:
- Limit touching the eyes as both S. aureus and CoNS can infect through the skin. Wash your hands before touching the irritation, or do not touch it at all. You should especially follow this when you suspect an infection of the eyes.
- When drying with a towel after a bath, wipe from head to toe. This reduces the chances of CoNS infecting the eyes from humid body areas, such as the armpits and the lower body.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Dacryocystitis
Aside from S. aureus and CoNS, dacryocystitis’ bacterial profile is mostly composed of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa). P. aeruginosa is a bacteria commonly found in the environment and thriving in soil and water. Although not as much as S. aureus and CoNS, P. aeruginosa can also be found in healthy persons. However, it is a common hospital pathogen that is dangerous to immunocompromised patients.
Other than immunocompromised patients, the pathogen is opportunistic to newborn babies with blockages in their tear ducts. This can lead to dacryocystitis. As the tear duct fails to flow properly, fluid in the tear sac near the eye builds up, and bacteria such as P. aeruginosa infects the area. This leads to multiple symptoms such as pain, swelling, and redness in areas of the face near the eye.
Do note that dacryocystitis can also happen to adults. The infection caused is also potentially dangerous to nearby tissues, such as the cornea. This can lead to post-surgery endophthalmitis. To prevent such risk, here are some tips:
- When performing soil work in the garden, use protective gloves and always wash your hands properly after the work. This is because P. aeruginosa can thrive in soil and water.
- In a hospital setting, be mindful of where your hands go, as bacteria such as P. aeruginosa may be present in the area.
Multiple Bacteria and Endophthalmitis
The bacterial profile of endophthalmitis also consists of S. aureus, CoNS, and P. aeruginosa. However, throughout multiple studies, the bacterial profile of the disease is diverse at a seemingly standard distribution. Other prominent bacteria include Streptococcus viridians and some Bacillus species.
The standard distribution of the profile may be because the infection is secondary to an injury caused in the eye. Thus, any bacteria can infect the organ. Endophthalmitis is commonly caused by foreign objects such as surgical instruments. This type of endophthalmitis is exogenous. The second, less common type is endogenous endophthalmitis, caused by infection from other body parts that reach the eye.
Endophthalmitis may be uncommon. However, it is one of the devastating eye diseases with risks of blindness. Some severe cases can require surgery. The best preventive tip for this disease would be to be prepared when performing tasks that may harm the eyes physically. Wear protective gear in these cases.
In the case of post-surgery, you should listen to your doctor’s instructions. You can also take note of all the points we gave throughout this article, as these provide tips for protecting your eyes from any pathogen in the environment.