Also known as a Pink Eye, Conjunctivitis is a very common eye problem. It can easily be treated with a few simple precautions & prescribed eye drops. Visit AFO to get it diagnosed


What is Conjunctivitis?

The thin, transparent membrane that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelid is called the conjunctiva. When the conjunctiva becomes swollen, irritated or infected, this is known as conjunctivitis. Although the conjunctiva is transparent, it contains small blood vessels. When they are inflamed, they swell and become more visible. This causes discomfort and a pink or red appearance that can last for a few days and sometimes even for several weeks.

Conjunctivitis is a common eye problem and can be easily treated with a few simple precautions and can often be avoided. You can have conjunctivitis in one or both eyes. Conjunctivitis is often called “Pink Eye”. Some types of pink eye are very contagious means can easily spread from person to person.

The symptoms of pink eye differ based on the cause of the inflammation, but it may include:
  • Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
  • Itching or burning sensation in one or both eyes
  • Puffy eyelids
  • Swelling due to rubbing
  • Increased amount of tears
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Blurry or hazy vision
  • A gritty or soreness sensation in your eye, a feeling that something is in your eye
  • Lots of mucus or thick yellow discharge from your eye especially after sleep
  • A sticky or crusty coating on the eyelashes in the morning which make your eyelashes stick together

The primary types of conjunctivitis are:

  • Infectious Conjunctivitis
  • Allergic Conjunctivitis
  • Chemical Conjunctivitis

The cause of conjunctivitis varies depending on the type.

Infectious Conjunctivitis:

  1. Bacterial conjunctivitis
    • It is an infection most often caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria from your own skin or respiratory system.
    • Contact with contaminated fingers, contaminated eye makeup and facial lotions can cause bacterial conjunctivitis.
    • Sharing makeup and contact lenses with others, which are not properly cleaned can also cause bacterial conjunctivitis.
    • It is a conjunctivitis that produces lots of sticky pus in the eye.
    • Bacterial infections can be quite contagious, can be easily spread through direct or indirect contact with eye fluid/secretions from an infected person.

  2. Viral conjunctivitis
    • Viral conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by the same virus that causes the runny nose and sore throat of the common cold.
    • It can be caused by direct exposure to the coughing or sneezing of someone with an upper respiratory tract infection.
    • Contact with contaminated fingers, medical instruments, swimming pool water and personal items from an infected person can cause Viral conjunctivitis.
    • Can also occur as the virus spreads along the body's own mucous membranes, which connect the lungs, throat, nose, tear ducts and conjunctiva.
    • Can be associated with sore throat and cold.
    • Viral conjunctivitis can be quite contagious, can be easily spread through direct or indirect contact with eye fluid/secretions from an infected person.

  3. Neonatal conjunctivitis
    • Neonatal conjunctivitis is a severe form of bacterial conjunctivitis that occurs in newborn babies, it is also known as ophthalmia neonatorum.
    • It occurs when a baby's eyes are exposed to chlamydia while passing through the birth canal.
    • It must be assessed by a paediatric ophthalmologist immediately as it can lead to potentially vision threatening.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

  1. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis
    • It is more frequent among people who already have allergies.
    • Allergic conjunctivitis can affect both eyes and is often a occurs due to an allergy-causing substance, such as pollen from trees, plants, grasses, and weeds.
    • Can occur seasonally, when allergens counts are high.
    • Can also occur year round to them who are allergic to indoor allergens, such as dust mites, animal dander, medicines, or cosmetics.
    • It is not contagious.

  2. Giant papillary conjunctivitis
    • It ocuurs due to a reaction to foreign body irritating the eye such as the use of contact lenses or recent eye surgery.
    • It is possible to people who wear hard or rigid contact lenses.
    • Also possbile to people who wear soft contact lenses that are not replaced frequently
    • Lack of proper cleaning, using worn-out lenses, lens with rough edges, or wearing lenses while sleeping can also cause papillary conjunctivitis.
    • It is not contagious.

Chemical Conjunctivitis

  1. Chemical Conjunctivitis can be caused by exposure to irritants like air pollution, chlorine in swimming pools, fumes and noxious chemicals in the eye.
  2. It is not contagious.

Conjunctivitis can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination, with special emphasis on the conjunctiva and surrounding tissues. Special test may include:

  • Patient history:

    A doctor can often determine whether a virus, bacterium, or allergen is causing the conjunctivitis based on patient history. It also helps to understand the symptoms, when the symptoms began, and whether any general health or environmental conditions are contributing to the problem.

  • Visual acuity:

    To determine whether vision has been affected.

  • Examining your eye:

    Evaluation of the conjunctiva and external eye tissue using bright light and magnification.

  • Evaluation of the inner structures:

    Evaluation of the inner structures of the eye to ensure that no other tissues are affected by the condition.

  • Supplemental testing:

    It is important to do supplement testing in cases of chronic conjunctivitis or when the condition is not improving after treatment. It may include taking a sample of eye discharge from the infected eye to determine form of infection and best way to treat it.

Treatment for Conjunctivitis usually depends on the type of conjunctivitis you have. Conjunctivitis treatment mainly aims for giving patients more comfort and reducing the pain.

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis
    • Antibiotic eye drops may be prescribed.
    • Mild bacterial conjunctivitis may get better even without medication.
    • Antibiotics may help shorten the length of infection, reduce complications, and reduce the spread to others.
    • The infection should ease in 2 to 5 days but it can take 2 weeks to go away completely.
    • Do not stop the treatment early, even if the eye seems better. It is important to complete the entire course of antibiotics to prevent recurrence.

  • Viral conjunctivitis
    • No drops or ointments can treat viral conjunctivitis.
    • It has to run its course, which may last for 2 or 3 weeks.
    • The symptoms will gradually clear up on their own.
    • A home remedy of applying a cold, wet washcloth to the eyes several times a day can relieve symptoms.
    • Due to the highly contagious nature of this type of conjunctivitis, make sure that you do not share this washcloth with others!
    • For serious forms of conjunctivitis , topical steroid drops may be prescribed to reduce the discomfort from inflammation but this will not shorten the infection.

  • Allergic conjunctivitis
    • If an allergy is causing irritation, a doctor may prescribe eye drops to control allergic reactions.
    • The severity of allergic conjunctivitis caused by an allergen such as pollen, can be reduced by removing the allergen from the person’s environment.
    • Cool compresses and artificial tears sometimes relieve discomfort in mild cases.
    • In some severe cases, your doctor may recommend a combination of drugs to reduce severity of allergic conjunctivitis.
    • Sometimes allergy medications must be started before allergy season or allergy flare-ups begin.
    • People with persistent allergic conjunctivitis may also require topical steroid eye drops.

  • Chemical conjunctivitis
    • Careful flushing of the eyes with running water must be done immediately to remove the toxic chemical is a standard treatment for chemical conjunctivitis.
    • Conjunctivitis from a chemical or toxic substance needs to be evaluated by a doctor.
    • After the eye is rinsed free of the toxic substance, artificial tears or ointment may be used to decrease the redness and irritation.

Some conjunctivitis can easily spread from person to person. Follow these tips so you will not infect other people or re-infect yourself.

  • Wash your hands frequently or Keep a hand disinfectant handy and use it frequently.
  • Wash your hands before and after you eat, when you go to the bathroom, or after you sneeze or cough.
  • Do not share personal items such as washcloths, hand towels or tissues with others.
  • Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes.
  • Handle and clean contact lenses properly.
  • Don’t share eye cosmetics.
  • Change pillowcases frequently.
  • If you know you suffer from seasonal allergies, ask your doctor what can be done to minimize your symptoms before they begin.
  • Children with conjunctivitis should not attend school until they are fully recovered.

Alabama Family Optometry, Eye Doctor Moody AL, Conjunctivitis, Red and Itchy Eyes, Watery Eyes, Treatment for Conjunctivitis, Dr. Maurice Valentini, Vision Care Saks AL, Oxford, Alabama