Conjunctivitis

Useful Terms

Conjunctivitis = swelling or inflammation of the conjunctiva; also called “pink eye”

Conjunctiva = thin and filmy membrane that covers the insides of the eyelids and sclera and is responsible for producing mucus to keep the surface of the eyes moist and protected

Common Symptoms

  • Redness in either or both of the eyes
  • Itching in either or both of the eyes
  • A feeling of grittiness in either or both of the eyes
  • Tearing
  • Increased mucus or pus production
  • Mildly blurred vision due to the increased mucus or pus production
  • A sensation of the presence of a foreign substance in either or both of the eyes
  • Eyelash crusting in the morning (may glue the eyes shut)

Risk Factors

  • Usage of extended wear contact lenses
  • Exposure to an allergen
  • Exposure to someone who has a bacterial or viral form of conjunctivitis

Causes

  • Bacterial Conjunctivitis

    • May be caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus or Streptococcus, which can be obtained through both indirect and direct contact with the eye secretions of someone else who’s infected with the disease
    • This form can thus be highly contagious
    • It can affect either or both of the eyes
    • This usually causes redness and increased yellow-green, thick pus production
    • Additionally, there may also be eyelash crusting that results in the eyes being glued shut in the morning
    • This is more common in children than adults
  • Viral Conjunctivitis

    • As with bacterial conjunctivitis, this can be spread through both indirect and direct contact with the eye secretions of someone else who’s infected with the disease
    • This form can thus be highly contagious
    • It can affect either or both of the eyes
    • This usually causes redness and a watery discharge
    • This virus is also responsible for the sore throat and runny nose experienced by those who have the common cold
    • The symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to two weeks before going away on their own
  • Allergic Conjunctivitis

    • This is neither infectious nor contagious
    • This is caused by exposure to an allergen, usually pollen, pet dander, or other environmental irritants
    • This usually causes itchiness in either or both of the eyes, in addition to redness, tearing, burning, and puffiness of the eyelids; swollenness is occasional
  • Environmental Irritants

    • The irritants are usually smoke or similar fumes
    • They are responsible for the burning and irritation that comes with the condition
  • Infectious Conjunctivitis

    • Whether bacterial or viral in causation and nature, there are various ways for the condition to become contagious:

      • Not washing the hands often enough and touching the eyes with them
      • The reuse of tissues and/or towels when wiping the eyes and face
      • Poor cleaning and maintenance of contact lenses or the usage of poorly fitting contact lenses or other types of contacts
      • The usage of infected eye makeup
    • Children are the most susceptible to catching an infectious form of the disease due to close and extended contact with many other people

Diagnosis

  • A routine eye examination is usually all it takes to diagnose the disease

    • This is supplemented by telling the ophthalmologist of how the symptoms gradually developed or suddenly appeared, and whether the patient has been exposed to anyone else who had the symptoms of pink eye
  • Laboratory Analysis

    • The doctor will use a cotton swab to collect a sample of eye secretions from the conjunctiva
    • The sample will be analyzed to determine the cause of the disease, whether it was bacterial or viral
    • This is usually done only when the patient is experiencing and suffering from a severe case of the disease, the corneas have been impacted, or there have been multiple infections that have not responded favorably to treatment

Treatment

  • Treatment for Bacterial Conjunctivitis

    • Antibiotic eyedrops are prescribed as a means of treatment and further testing for the nature of the cause of the disease (viral or bacterial), due to the difficulty of differentiating them from each other
    • These eyedrops will hasten the healing process and reduce the contagion of the condition
    • Antibiotic ointments can be substituted for eyedrops due to the easier administration of ointment to young children and infants

      • The ointment may blur the child’s vision for up to 20 minutes after its application
  • Treatment for Viral Conjunctivitis

    • There is no treatment for most cases of the viral form of this malady

      • It doesn’t respond to antibiotic eyedrops, which makes that method of treatment useful for discerning it from the bacterial incarnation
      • The virus will go away on its own after two weeks of initial infection
    • Usually, the only necessary treatment is the use of cool compresses that are applied to the eye (s) and cool artificial tears
    • Antiviral medications can be prescribed in those cases in which it was caused by the Herpes simplex virus
    • Anti-inflammatory eyedrops can also be prescribed for severe cases
  • Treatment for Allergic Conjunctivitis

    • As with the treatment method for the viral form of conjunctivitis, cool compresses and cool artificial tears, along with allergy eyedrops, can be applied to relieve discomfort
  • Methods of Preventing the Contagion

    • Wash the hands often and avoid touching the eyes with them
    • Avoid the reuse of tissues and cloths to wipe the face and eyes
    • Change pillowcases regularly
    • Regularly replace any eye cosmetics that are used with new ones and refrain from sharing them with other people
    • Utilize the proper cleaning and maintenance protocols for contact lenses

      • Follow the correct instructions as to how to properly and safely get rid of the disposable ones