What Is Endophthalmitis?
Endophthalmitis is a severe inflammation of the inside of the eye. The inflammation affects the vitreous fluid of the eye, which is a clear, gel-like substance, and it can also affect the surrounding tissue responsible for vision. Endophthalmitis is a VERY rare possible complication due to:
- eye surgery and/or eye injections
- eye trauma
- systemic infection into the eye
- blood-born infection
Endophthalmitis is a serious condition which requires medical attention right away as it can cause permanent vision loss if not promptly treated.
Even though endophthalmitis is a very rare occurrence, at Ophthalmic Consultants of the Capital Region, we have well-trained and experienced physicians who can treat this condition.
What Causes Endophthalmitis?
Endophthalmitis is usually caused when bacteria is able to enter the eye following procedures like cataract surgery, an injection into the eye, or an eye injury. The onset of the inflammation can be acute, meaning the symptoms develop quickly and usually show up within a few days of the eye procedure or injury, or chronic, meaning the condition develops more slowly (more than 6 weeks post-surgery) if certain types of bacteria or fungi enter the eye.
While a bacterial infection is the most common cause of endophthalmitis, inflammation can also occur due to infections caused by fungi, viruses, or parasites. And in less common cases, an infection from another part of the body, like a urinary tract or blood infection, can spread through the bloodstream to the eye causing endophthalmitis.
What Are the Symptoms of Endophthalmitis?
Symptoms of endophthalmitis can include:
- Decreased, blurred, or lost vision
- Eye pain that worsens after surgery, an injection, or injury to the eye
- Increasing redness to the whites of the eyes, especially after eye surgery
- White or yellow discharge on or inside the eyelids
- Swollen or puffy eyelids
- Cloudiness of the cornea
While the occurrence of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have endophthalmitis, if you experience one or more of these symptoms—especially after recent eye surgery or eye injection—contact your ophthalmologist right away for an exam.
How Is Endophthalmitis Diagnosed and Treated?
Your ophthalmologist will perform several tests to determine whether your symptoms are from endophthalmitisThey will perform a complete eye examination and test your vision. They will also ask about any recent surgeries, eye procedures, or injuries.
If an infection is suspected, your doctor will perform a test called a vitreous tap, which involves using a tiny needle to take some fluid out of your eye. This fluid sample is then sent to a laboratory to test whether there is an infection. If caught and treated early the patient can recover completely.
If you’ve had an eye injury, your ophthalmologist may also order an ultrasound to see if there are any foreign objects in the eye.
Treatment for endophthalmitis usually includes an injection of antibiotics or anti-fungal agents into the eye. Your ophthalmologist may also give you a steroid to reduce the inflammation and swelling caused by the infection.
In more advanced cases, vitrectomy surgery may be needed to remove inflammatory debris from inside the eye.
Can Endophthalmitis Be Prevented?
Endophthalmitis due to cataract surgery or injections is extremely rare, thanks to high hygienic standards, advanced surgical techniques, and powerful antibiotics. As a patient, it’s extremely important to follow your doctor’s aftercare instructions post eye surgery, including washing your hands before administering eye drops and not allowing the eyedropper to touch the eye, which could cause contamination. Scheduling post-surgery follow-up appointments are also essential.
To avoid eye injuries—and the possibility of endophthalmitis—use protective eyewear during contact sports or during any activity that could cause debris to enter the eye, such as sawing or drilling wood.
Endophthalmitis is a very serious medical problem and requires emergency attention. If you develop symptoms associated with endophthalmitis, especially after eye surgery, eye trauma, or any condition that weakens your immune defenses, contact your ophthalmologist immediately. If endophthalmitis isn’t treated quickly, the bacteria causing the infection can ultimately destroy the retina and eye tissues, leading to blindness. Thankfully, with swift attention and proper treatment, many people have a good prognosis.