What is Conjunctivitis ?

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye,” is an inflammation of the membrane (conjunctiva) that covers the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelid.  It is a fairly common condition and usually causes no danger to the eye or your child’s vision . The inflammation can have many causes, the most common of which are infectious and allergic irritants.

Pink eye may be more serious if you: have a condition that decreases your ability to fight infection (impaired immune system), have vision in only one eye or you wear contact lenses.

It’s called pinkeye because the white part of the eye and inside the eyelids become red or pink when you have it. Pinkeye may start in one eye, but many people get conjunctivitis in both eyes at the same time. Conjunctivitis usually doesn’t hurt, but itching can be annoying.

What are the Causes of Conjunctivitis?

One cause involves the introduction of either bacterial or viral microorganisms into the eye.  These may be transmitted to the eye by contaminated hands, washcloths or towels, cosmetics (particularly eye makeup), false eyelashes or extended wear contacts.

Minor conjunctivitis can accompany a viral cold or flu.  Although bacterial and some of the viral infections (particularly herpes) are not very common, they are potentially serious. Both types of infection are contagious.

Irritants are another cause of conjunctivitis.  Offenders of this type include air pollutants, smoke, soap, hair spray, makeup, chlorine, cleaning fluids, etc.

Seasonal allergic response to grass and other pollens can cause some individuals to acquire conjunctivitis.

What are the Symptoms of Conjunctivitis?

The symptoms of infectious conjunctivitis caused by a bacteria or viruses are:

  • Eye pain.
  • Swelling of the eyes.
  • Redness in the eyes.
  • Yellow, green or watery discharge from the eyes which collects overnight and crusts over the eye.
  • A gritty feeling in the eye.
  • Itching of the eye.
  • An enlarged lymph gland in front of the ear.

The symptoms of conjunctivitis caused by allergies are:

  • Intense itching of the eye.
  • Excessive tearing of the eye.
  • Swelling of the eye.
  • Redness of the eye.
  • Sneezing.
  • Runny nose.

What Treatment can be done for Conjunctivitis ?

Treatment varies with the cause. There is no curative treatment for common viral conjunctivitis; it usually will go away by itself in one to six weeks. Lubricating eye drops sometimes help to ease symptoms.

A person with conjunctivitis should follow these general guidelines:

  • If medication has been prescribed, use exactly as directed for the full course of treatment. (All treatments used for conjunctivitis should be thrown away when no longer needed).
  • Be sure to wash hands with soap and water before and after using eye medication.
  • Wash hands frequently during waking hours with soap and water (15 seconds), and use paper towels or blow dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes. Gently wipe discharge from the eye using disposable tissues.
  • Use warm or cool water compresses to reduce discomfort.
  • Do not use eye makeup. Discard eye makeup if used when conjunctivitis was present because organisms may remain in makeup and cause a reoccurrence.