What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is swelling/inflammation or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids, called conjunctiva. These conjunctiva are exposed to bacteria and other irritants. Normally, tears help protect the conjunctiva by washing away bacteria. Tears also contain enzymes and antibodies that kill bacteria.

What causes Conjunctivitis?

There are many causes of conjunctivitis. Viruses are the most common cause. Other causes include allergies, bacteria, Chlamydia, fungi, and use of contact lenses (especially extended-wear lenses

“Pink eye” refers to a viral infection of the conjunctiva. These infections are especially contagious among children. Newborns can be infected by bacteria in the birth canal. This condition is called ophthalmia neonatorum, and it must be treated immediately to preserve eyesight.

Patients with conjunctivitis most often experience blurred vision, eye pain, crusts that form on the eyelid overnight, gritty and/or itchy feeling in the eyes, redness in the eyes, increased tearing, and sensitivity to light.

How is Conjunctivitis treated?

Viral conjunctivitis will disappear on its own. Many doctors give a mild antibiotic eyedrop for pink eye to prevent bacterial conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis may respond to allergy treatment. It may disappear on its own when the allergen that caused it is removed. Antibiotic medication, usually eye drops, is effective for bacterial conjunctivitis.

Cool compresses may help soothe allergic conjunctivitis.You can soothe the discomfort of viral or bacterial conjunctivitis by applying warm compresses (clean cloths soaked in warm water) to your closed eyes.

The outcome is usually good with treatment. Reinfection within a household or school may occur if you don't follow preventive measures. Good hygiene can help prevent the spread of conjunctivitis: change pillowcases frequently; do not share eye cosmetics; do not share towels or handkerchiefs; handle and clean contact lenses properly; keep hands away from the eye; replace eye cosmetics regularly; and, wash your hands often.

Call for an appointment if your symptoms last longer than 3 or 4 days.