Can Getting Semen in Your Eye Cause An STI? and 13 Other FAQs

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Things to consider

Getting semen in your eye is further proof that sometimes things just don’t go as planned.

Beyond being alarmed at the fact you have semen in your eye, you may be wondering about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other infectious conditions.

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Fortunately, we’ve got you covered! Here’s how to clean up the mess, tips to soothe any irritation, when to consider STI testing, and more.

Can I rub it off?

No, don’t touch your eye. You could spread the fluid to other areas of your body or further embed it in your eye.

How do I get it out?

Follow these tips from the World Health Organization for getting bodily fluids out of your eye:

  1. If you wear contacts, leave them in. The contact can protect the affected eye until you rinse it out.
  2. Rinse the eye with water or saline solution (like eye drops) as soon as possible.
  3. You can splash your eye over the sink until you think the semen has been rinsed out, or rinse your eye in the shower.
  4. Another option is to sit in a chair, tilt your head back, and have someone gently pour water or saline over your eye.
  5. Either way, make sure you pull your eyelid down so you can thoroughly rinse the area.
  6. Then, if you wear contacts, remove the contact from the affected eye and cleanse it with saline solution. You can put the contact back in afterward.

Note that while your first instinct may be to wash the eye out with soap and water, don’t. You don’t need soap or other disinfectants to get the semen out, just water or saline.

Are stinging and blurry vision normal?

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Yes! Your eye tissue is incredibly delicate, and semen has several components that act as irritants. This includes acids, enzymes, zinc, chlorine, and sugars.

How long will redness last?

Redness and inflammation are the body’s natural response to irritants.

Whether it’s dust, semen, or whatever else, getting a foreign object in your eye can cause redness.

Ideally, it’ll go away within 24 hours of exposure.

Is there anything I can do to find relief?

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Keep flushing your eye out with over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops, water, or saline solutions.

You can also apply warm or cool compresses over your eyes to soothe irritation. A soft washcloth dampened with water is perfect.

Taking OTC pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) can help, too.

Whatever you do, don’t rub your eye. It’ll only make redness worse.

What if my symptoms don’t fade?

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If your eye is getting redder, continuously watering, or increasing in pain, call an eye doctor. These could be signs of an eye infection.

Otherwise, wait until about 24 hours have passed and see how you’re doing. If you don’t see any improvement, it’s time to consult a medical professional.

Stye

A stye is a form of eye inflammation. Styes are usually triggered by the presence of Staphylococcus bacteria in the eye.

With that in mind, it’s really unlikely that getting semen in your eye will cause a stye.

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If you do develop one, it’s probably not from the semen itself but from all the itching and scratching you did afterward.

These disruptions may have allowed bacteria to invade your eye.

Conjunctivitis

You can get conjunctivitis (pink eye) from some bacteria in semen.

This includes STI bacteria, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

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Common symptoms include:

  • eyelid swelling
  • grittiness, as if there’s dirt in your eye
  • pink or red tinge to the eye
  • itching in one or both eyes
  • light sensitivity

If this sounds familiar, see a doctor or other healthcare provider for a diagnosis. You may need antibiotic eye drops.

What about HIV?

It’s possible to contract HIV from getting semen in your eye, but it’s not a common transmission source.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the risk for contracting HIV by the type of exposure. The greatest risk, for example, is receiving a blood transfusion from someone who has the virus.

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The CDC doesn’t have an official estimate on the risk of transmission from semen to the eye. However, they do place the risk of “throwing body fluids” like semen as “negligible.”

What if the person who ejaculated has HIV?

Don’t panic. It’s very, very unlikely that you could contract HIV as a result of semen in your eye.

If it would help put your mind at ease, you could take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) medicine to truly minimize your risk.

PEP is a prescription antiretroviral that helps prevent the virus from multiplying in your body.

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The medication must be taken within 72 hours after potential HIV exposure, so talk to a doctor or emergency care provider as soon as possible.

What about STIs?

In theory, you can get an STI from getting semen in your eye. In practice, it doesn’t happen a lot.

Herpes

If your partner is experiencing an active herpes outbreak, you’re at greater risk for contracting the infection.

When the herpes virus affects the eye, it’s known as ocular herpes.

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If left untreated, ocular herpes can lead to a serious infection that affects the cornea and vision.

Symptoms may include:

  • swelling
  • tearing
  • redness
  • soreness
  • light sensitivity

Although there isn’t a cure for the herpes virus, you can manage symptoms with anti-inflammatory eye drops and oral antiviral medication.

Chlamydia

There isn’t a lot of data on the rate of transmission of chlamydia due to semen in the eye, but it’s a known route.

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Symptoms may include:

  • persistent irritation
  • puslike discharge from the eye
  • eyelid swelling

Antibiotic eye drops can treat it.

Gonorrhea

This isn’t a common route for transmission, but it’s possible.

Symptoms may include:

  • light sensitivity
  • pain in the eye
  • puslike discharge from the eye
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Oral and eye-drop antibiotics can treat it.

Syphilis

This isn’t a common route for transmission, but it’s possible.

If left untreated, ocular syphilis can lead to blindness.

Symptoms may include:

  • redness
  • pain
  • vision changes
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Oral and eye-drop antibiotics can treat it.

Hepatitis B and C

Although hepatitis B and C are primarily transmitted through blood, transmission via semen is possible.

Symptoms may include:

  • dryness
  • pain
  • ulcers on the eyes
  • sores on the eyes

Oral or injectable antibiotics can treat these conditions.

Pubic lice
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Pubic lice live outside the body, so they shouldn’t be in semen.

However, the lice can get in your eyelashes if you get too close to someone who has them.

Symptoms may include:

  • itchy eyes
  • tan, white, or gray flecks in your lashes
  • fever
  • fatigue

Do I need to get tested?

Yes. Unless your partner has recently been tested and can show you the results, get tested just to be sure.

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Antibiotic or antiviral medication can successfully treat many STIs.

When should I get tested?

It’s a good idea to get tested about three months after the semen got in your eye.

Testing earlier than this could result in a false positive or false negative.

Make sure you’re tested for:

    HIV
  • hepatitis B and C
  • chlamydia
  • syphilis

Is the testing process the same?

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It ultimately depends on whether you’re experiencing symptoms and, if so, what they are.

If your eye is affected, your provider will examine your eye with a special microscope.

They may also put drops in your eye to get a closer look at your cornea.

In rare cases, they may swab or take a tiny sample of eye tissue for further testing.

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If you aren’t having any eye symptoms, the testing process will be the same as usual. Your provider may take a saliva, blood, or tissue sample.

Is treatment available?

Yes. Your options for treatment depend on the diagnosis.

Some infections, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, are treated with antibiotics.

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Other conditions, such as herpes, don’t have a cure, but symptoms can be successfully managed.

The bottom line

Oftentimes, the burning or stinging you feel in your eye is the most serious side effect of getting semen in your eye.

However, it’s possible to contract certain STIs or develop pink eye as a result of semen exposure.

See a healthcare provider if you aren’t sure of your partner’s STI status or if discomfort persists. They can review your symptoms and advise you on any next steps.

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