Eye Infections Associated With Drug Addictions

A new study in JAMA Ophthalmology showed an increase of vision-threatening eye infections in people with drug addictions. There have been new statistics regarding hospitalizations for rare eye infections known as endogenous endophthalmitis that rose 400% in 2003 and 2016. It can be found among people who have a history of intravenous drug use.

There has been a sharp rise in severe eye infections after 2010 according to the study. 2010 is the year where regulators clamped down on opioid prescribing. The researchers assumed that people with prescription opioid addictions began to turn into more readily available street drugs that are cheaper.

Heroin, fentanyl, and other injected drugs have become dangerously popular in recent years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the drug overdoses reached alarming levels. A report from an eye treatment center in New England showed how the opioid epidemic leads to the rise in cases of a rare eye infection.

How to Treat Endogenous Endophthalmitis

closeup of an eye of a man

The rare eye infection called endogenous endophthalmitis develops when the bacteria or fungi enter the bloodstream by the use of dirty needles and spreads to the eyes. The occurrence of endogenous endophthalmitis is extremely rare but it has devastating consequences which include serious vision problems.

As the opioid epidemic continues, endogenous endophthalmitis is a persistent threat although it is a rare eye infection. You may observe people with severe eye infections where they develop eye pain, red eyes, inflammation, and worsening vision. As the infection progresses, you can also see a swollen, pus-filled abscess form in the eye. If the infection is left untreated, it can spread to the retina and cause irreversible damage to vision.

Doctors treat infections including endogenous endophthalmitis by injecting antibiotics or antifungal drugs in the eye. To reduce swelling and inflammation, the use of steroids can help. There may be cases where surgeons need to remove parts of the eye because it has been damaged by infection. If it is a severe infection, they may need to remove the entire eye to prevent the infection from reaching the brain.

Should I Seek Medical Attention for Eye Infection?

painful eye of a woman

Make sure to know the signs of eye infection. Be reminded that redness and inflammation are not always signs of infection. It is the best choice to consult with your ophthalmologist if you have these symptoms to determine what is happening. People who use intravenous drugs should remain connected with their doctors to be able to receive the best care possible for them.

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