Seminal fluid in the eyes may cause redness. In rare cases, sexually transmitted infections may spread via semen. If this enters a person’s eye, it could result in an infection. Without diagnosis and treatment, this could lead to blindness, but research has yet to prove this.
This article looks at possible mild effects of getting semen in the eye and what to do if a person does this. It also explores eye infections, possible serious sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and their symptoms and treatments.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Similar to other foreign objects or components that enter the eye, sperm may cause the following ocular symptoms:
In most cases, getting sperm or another fluid in the eye will not lead to blindness. Although a person may experience other symptoms or complications, these may or may not relate to the sperm or fluid.
If someone gets sperm in the eye, they should try to wash their eyes with water immediately. This may help relieve mild eye symptoms from a substance entering the eye, such as sperm.
If someone is wearing contacts when the sperm goes in it, they may have to flush the eye with the contact lens unless they can remove them safely.
Alternatively, a saline solution or eye drops may also help clean the eye and rinse out the sperm.
It is important that people do not use soap or any other chemicals, such as alcohol, in the eyes, since this could further aggravate symptoms and vision.
When to seek medical attention
If a person’s eye becomes redder or starts to cause pain, they should seek medical attention, as this could be a sign of an infection.
Direct contact with bodily fluids, either through sperm in the eye, or fingers, may cause these infections.
The type of treatment varies according to the specific pathogens involved and the patient’s health. Without treatment, these infections could lead to eye damage, permanent visual disability, and the spread of infection to the central nervous system.
Although rare, we discuss the possible infections below.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection.
Ocular infection with gonorrhea often spreads by autoinoculation, or self-infection, or direct transmission, such as through semen.
The conjunctiva — the membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids — is prone to infection. The bacteria can affect the cornea, leading to keratitis.
These complications may occur within 24 hours of infection, requiring prompt diagnosis and emergency treatment. This may lead to blindness if there is not adequate and timely treatment.
At present, there are limited research studies on the possible risk of blindness from gonorrhea due to sperm entering the eye. Therefore, a person needs to discuss any concerns with an eye doctor.
Symptoms of ocular infection with gonorrhea may include:
- painful conjunctivitis, or pink eye
- eyelid swelling
- eye discharge
- severe conjunctival injection
- corneal thinning
- swelling of the conjunctiva, which doctors call chemosis
- impaired visual acuity
For ocular infections, a person can apply topical antibiotics frequently.
If the infection affects the cornea, they need dual topical therapy hourly, day and night. In severe cases, this may lead to hospitalization and receiving treatment via IV that healthcare professionals administer directly into the bloodstream.
Chlamydial conjunctivitis is a type of STI that results from contact, such as from semen in the eyes, with bacteria that causes genital chlamydia infections.
Chlamydial conjunctivitis usually only affects one eye but can involve both eyes. People usually experience red eyes and discharge.
At present, there is little research on the risks of blindness from chlamydial conjunctivitis due to sperm in the eye. A person should discuss their concerns with a doctor.
Doctors usually prescribe a topical tetracycline ointment four times a day for 6 weeks or systemic treatment such as azithromycin or doxycycline for 1–2 weeks.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection.
The eye is not a common site for an infection of syphilis, but it can spread to this area through the bloodstream.
If a person receives exposure to semen in the eye, the infection could spread this way, but research has yet to prove this.
Ocular syphilis may
Additional effects may include:
- anterior uveitis — inflammation of the iris
- optic neuropathy — when blood does not flow properly to the eye’s optic nerve
- retinal vasculitis — an inflammatory eye condition that involves the retinal vessel
- interstitial keratitis — chronic inflammation of the mid-stroma (the middle layers of the cornea)
Ocular syphilis may lead to decreased visual acuity, including permanent blindness.
Currently, experts have not researched the possible risk of blindness from ocular syphilis due to sperm in the eye, so a person needs to discuss this with a doctor.
If someone is allergic to penicillin, they may receive oral erythromycin or tetracycline four times a day for 1 month.
Additionally, topical, periocular, and systemic steroids help manage any complications of syphilis.
In combination, HIV and AIDS affect the eye in up to 70% of cases.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most common cause of intraocular infections, and CMV retinitis is the most common infectious ocular complication.
CMV retinitis usually causes ill-defined white lesions on the retina, which may affect one or both eyes.
However, there is currently little to no research on the risk of blindness from HIV due to sperm entering the eye.
Most ocular pathogens do not have a cure, so management requires lifelong treatment.
While primary infection may result in conjunctivitis, the subsequent infection can involve the cornea.
It is common for people to experience the following:
- blurred vision
- ocular discomfort
Stromal keratitis occurs in almost 25% of cases of ocular herpes. In these rare cases, corneal scarring and thinning could develop, which could result in blindness.
However, no research has explored whether ocular herpes and semen in the eye can cause blindness. Therefore, people can discuss any concerns with an eye doctor.
Other ocular presentations of herpes include iridocyclitis, which involves inflammation of the anterior part of the eye, and secondary glaucoma.
Some symptoms may include the following:
- light sensitivity
If a person gets semen in the eyes, it will not usually cause a problem, though they may experience mild irritation or redness. People can safely flush their eyes to lower the risk of possible complications.
However, in some cases, a person could develop an infection if the semen carries an STI. Possible infectious complications include conjunctivitis, keratitis, and uveitis.
Doctors base treatment approaches on the specific bacteria involved. Without treatment, or if a person has a more severe infection, it could lead to eye damage and permanent vision loss.
There are limited research studies on the possible risk of blindness due to sperm contacting the eye, so a person needs to discuss any concerns with an eye doctor candidly.