When dealing with a patient with an external eye infection, a full history must be taken.

Questions to Ask
When and where did it start?
How long has it persisted?
What symptom(s) is the patient most aware of?
Is there visual disturbance? This is a worrying sign and should be taken seriously.
Has this occurred before? Hordeolum, chalazion, and blepharitis may all recur in the same patient.
Is there any preceding history of trauma (major or minor) to suggest a route of entry for infection?
Has there been any recent respiratory tract infection to act as a local source of infection?


A more comprehensive account of the clinical assessment of acute eye problems can be found in the session: Initial Assessment of the Eye.

Rapidly progressive symptoms are a worrying feature and can be an indicator of more serious disease.

The clinician must resist the temptation to focus solely on the eye. The presence of systemic features can suggest a more serious infection, while diabetes should prompt minor infections to be taken more seriously.

Learning Bite

The presence of visual disturbance or rapidly progressing symptoms should alert the EP to the likelihood of a more significant underlying problem.