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Can an Optometrist Treat Eye Infections?

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Young woman sitting at an optometrist's office discussing her eye health with her eye doctor

Have you ever experienced eye strain from staring at screens, felt the need to rub your eyes after a tiring day, or woke up with discomforting itchiness? If so, you might have wondered who to turn to for help. 

Well, here’s a hint: your nearby optometrist could be your trusted ally in eye care. And guess what? They’re fully equipped to handle eye infections too!

Optometrists are skilled experts in eye care, adept at diagnosing, managing, and treating various eye conditions, including infections.

Whether it’s something as common as conjunctivitis or something a bit more complex, an optometrist can provide the initial care you need.

What Eye Infections Can an Optometrist Help With?

Think of optometrists as the general practitioners of the eye world. They can tackle a wide range of problems – from dry eye syndrome and eye allergies to infections like bacterial, viral, and fungal conjunctivitis.

They’re also skilled at spotting more serious conditions that require specialist care. In short, if your eyes are giving you grief in any way, an optometrist is a great place to start.


Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is when the white part of your eye turns red and feels itchy or irritated. Optometrists know how to handle different types:

  • Bacterial Conjunctivitis: Caused by bacteria, it leads to yellow or green discharge and crusty eyelids. Optometrists may give antibiotic drops or ointments.
  • Viral Conjunctivitis: Caused by viruses, it makes your eyes watery and sensitive to light. There’s no specific medicine, but optometrists can help manage symptoms.
  • Allergic Conjunctivitis: Triggered by allergens like pollen or pet dander, it causes itching and tearing. Optometrists might recommend antihistamine eye drops or other treatments.


A stye, or hordeolum, is a localized infection or inflammation of the eyelid glands, typically caused by bacterial overgrowth. Optometrists may try the following approaches to help manage styes:

  • Warm Compresses: The application of warm compresses helps promote drainage and relieve pain associated with styes.
  • Topical Antibiotics: In cases of bacterial infection, optometrists may prescribe topical antibiotics to eradicate the bacteria.
  • Incision and Drainage: For persistent or recurrent styes, optometrists may perform incision and drainage to facilitate resolution and prevent complications such as eyelid scarring.


Keratitis refers to inflammation of the cornea, the transparent dome-shaped structure covering the front of the eye.

  • Contact Lens-Related Keratitis: Prolonged contact lens wear, improper lens hygiene, or microbial contamination can predispose people to contact lens-related keratitis. Optometrists recommend good lens care and might give medicated eye drops or suggest taking a break from wearing contacts to help the cornea heal.
  • Infectious Keratitis: Microbial pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and amoebae, can cause infectious keratitis. Optometrists figure out which germ is causing it and use specific medicines to get rid of the infection.
  • Non-Infectious Keratitis: Not caused by germs but by things like autoimmune disorders, chemical injuries, or too much UV light exposure. Optometrists work with other specialists to treat underlying health issues and ease cornea inflammation.


Blepharitis is when your eyelids become red, itchy, and flaky. It’s often caused by bacteria or skin conditions. Optometrists might recommend different ways to manage it including:

  • Eyelid Hygiene: Optometrists can help educate patients on proper eyelid hygiene practices, including gentle cleansing with warm water and mild soap, and the application of warm compresses to unclog meibomian glands and reduce inflammation.
  • Topical Therapies: Depending on the severity of blepharitis, optometrists may prescribe topical antibiotics, corticosteroids, or lubricating ointments to alleviate symptoms and restore ocular surface health.
  • Meibomian Gland Expression: In cases of meibomian gland dysfunction-associated blepharitis, optometrists perform meibomian gland expression to facilitate the secretion of meibum and prevent gland obstruction.
Young woman putting in eye drops to treat an eye infection.

Can Optometrists Prescribe Antibiotics?

The exact scope of practice can vary from state to state, but generally speaking, if you’ve got an eye infection that needs medical treatment, your optometrist has got you covered.

In California, optometrists wield the authority to prescribe antibiotics for tackling eye infections. 

Equipped with specialized expertise, they can identify whether your eye discomfort stems from bacterial infections and suggest the most suitable antibiotics to expedite your recovery process.

Just like their counterparts in other states, optometrists in California undergo extensive training and must get proper licensing, guaranteeing they’re fully capable of safeguarding your vision health.

Can an Optometrist Help with Eye Irritation?

Eye irritation can be caused by a lot of different factors – from environmental allergens to extended screen time.

Your optometrist can help identify the cause of your irritation and recommend effective treatments, which might include prescription eye drops, lifestyle adjustments, or protective eyewear.

Your Optometrist Can Help

Optometrists are your trusted allies for addressing a wide array of eye issues, including infections and irritations.

Their expertise encompasses both preventive care and treatment for acute conditions, with the added benefit of being able to prescribe necessary medications to restore your eye health.

Remember, your eyes are invaluable. Prioritizing their care not only ensures clear vision but also contributes to your quality of life.

If you’re experiencing any discomfort or are simply overdue for a check-up, don’t hesitate to reach out to Pack & Bianes Optometry to book an appointment. We’re here to help you with expert guidance.

Written by Total Vision

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