Endophthalmitis refers to serious inflammation and infection of the fluids within your eye. This condition, while not common, can threaten your sight, so you need to get immediate medical help. Call your provider if you have pain after eye surgery or an eye injury that keeps getting worse and not better.
Endophthalmitis (pronounced en-dof-thal-my-tis) is the medical name for an infection that affects the inside of your eye. In endophthalmitis, a bacterial or fungal infection triggers inflammation, an immune system response.
Endophthalmitis affects the aqueous humor and the vitreous humor. The aqueous humor is a normally clear fluid found between your lens and cornea at the front of your eye. The vitreous humor, a clear gel, sits between your lens and retina toward the back of your eye.
Endophthalmitis is a serious medical condition that needs immediate treatment. It can spread and cause vision loss. Panophthalmitis is the name for an infection that spreads to all parts of your eyeball and extends into the orbit.
An ophthalmologist may say that you have bacterial endophthalmitis or fungal endophthalmitis. They may also name the type of endophthalmitis by indicating how you got the infection. For example:
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Endophthalmitis signs and symptoms may include:
There are many causes of endophthalmitis. For example, any eye trauma, such as a tree branch hitting your eye or having eye surgery, may lead to exogenous endophthalmitis. Likewise, many infections in the body could lead to endogenous endophthalmitis, but this is usually in people who are severely ill.
Common causes of ways that bacteria and fungi can get into your eye from the outside include:
In Europe and North America, the most common bacteria that cause endogenous endophthalmitis are Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Candida albicans causes a majority of fungal infections.
Bacterial and fungal infections can spread through your body by getting into your bloodstream. Here are a few examples of these infections:
Recent studies have found that some people who’ve had COVID-19 developed endogenous endophthalmitis. It’s most likely that the endophthalmitis resulted from an infection that developed in the hospital. The people most at risk seem to be people who:
Although infectious agents cause endophthalmitis, it doesn’t spread from person to person.
They’ll take a sample of fluid or discharge from your eye to test in a laboratory. They may also want to test samples of your blood and urine.
In some cases, a provider might ask for an ultrasound of the eye (ocular ultrasound).
An eye care provider may treat endophthalmitis with medicine. They may prescribe antibiotic or antifungal medications or corticosteroids. You may get eye drops or injections.
If the disease severely affects your vision, your provider may suggest a surgery called a vitrectomy. This procedure removes infectious material from your eye and lets the surgeon inject antibiotic or antifungal medication inside your eye.
Your provider may suggest you wear an eye patch for a time after the surgery.
Possible complications from intravitreal injections of anti-infective drugs include damage to the cornea or the retina.
Your symptoms of pain and redness may begin to improve after a few days, but you may continue to have vision problems after that. It can take weeks or even months for endophthalmitis to resolve completely.
Ways to reduce your risk of endophthalmitis may include:
As with many conditions, the outlook for endophthalmitis is typically better if it’s caught and treated early. Outcomes may be worse in people who have immune systems that don’t work well or have diabetes.
Some people have low vision that lasts after treatment. If this happens, speak to your healthcare team about getting support.
If you have endophthalmitis, you’ll need regular eye appointments. Always tell a healthcare provider about any change in vision or eye pain.
If you have vision loss after treatment, your provider can help you find support services if they’re necessary.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have any type of surgery, especially eye surgery or eye injections, and you develop worrisome symptoms, contact a healthcare provider immediately. Symptoms may include eye pain, discharge or redness. Acute endophthalmitis is a medical emergency. You need treatment as soon as possible to improve your chances of recovery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/17/2022.
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