Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Symptoms


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The conjunctiva is a thin membrane containing tiny blood vessels and produces mucus to coat and lubricate the surface of your eye.

When the conjunctiva becomes irritated or inflamed, the blood vessels become larger and more prominent, making your eye appear red. Conjunctivitis may occur in one or both eyes. Symptoms include:

  • red eyes

  • swollen, red eyelids

  • watering eyes

  • soreness or itchiness

  • excess mucus and crusty eyelashes when you wake up

  • hazy vision due to mucus

  • the feeling that something is stuck in your eye

Treatment

The treatment for pink eye depends upon the particular underlying cause.

If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment, which should clear the infection within several days.

There is no treatment for viral conjunctivitis. It will take 7-10 days to go away on its own.

Allergic conjunctivitis may respond to treatment for the underlying allergies.

If the conjunctivitis is caused by allergies, irritants, or a virus, you can use cool compresses on the eyes and artificial tears to reduce discomfort.

If your condition is severe, your doctor may prescribe topical steroid to reduce the discomfort from inflammation. In severe allergic cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines may be prescribed.

If symptoms persist for an extended period of time after treatment, you should tell your doctor. Several eye diseases cause red eyes, some of which can lead to blindness unless diagnosed and treated.

Tests/Diagnosis

We can diagnose conjunctivitis with a thorough eye exam. The doctor will use a microscope with a light attached, called a slit lamp microscope, that allows a close look at your eye under high magnification.

We may take a sample of your eye discharge for analysis to determine what form of infection you have. A more extensive physical examination may be required to search for other causes of conjunctivitis.

Causes/Risk Factors

Infectious conjunctivitis, whether bacterial or viral, can be quite contagious.

Good hygiene can help prevent the spread of conjunctivitis.

  • Avoid re-using handkerchiefs and towels to wipe your face and eyes.

  • Wash your hands frequently

  • Keep your hands away from your eyes

  • Properly clean your contact lenses

  • Replace any eye cosmetics regularly.

Viral infection is the most common cause of conjunctivitis. This same virus produces the symptoms of a common cold. Symptoms of conjunctivitis can last from one to two weeks and then will disappear on their own.

Bacterial infections, such as staphylococcus or streptococcus, cause a type of conjunctivitis that produces considerable amounts of pus. Some bacterial infections, however, are more chronic and may produce little or no discharge except for some mild crusting of the eyelashes in the morning.

Infectious conjunctivitis, whether bacterial or viral, can be quite contagious. Practicing good hygiene can help prevent the spread of conjunctivitis if you are infected. You should avoid re-using handkerchiefs and towels to wipe your face and eyes. You should wash your hands frequently and keep your hands away from your eyes. Properly clean your contact lenses and replace any eye cosmetics regularly.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not infectious or contagious. It occurs when the body is exposed to materials that cause an allergic reaction, such as pollen or dander, and is often seasonal.