What You Need to Know About Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an eye infection that can cause itching and burning, along with a discharge and swollen eyelids. Many forms of conjunctivitis are highly contagious and are easily spread through contact. Contact us today to learn more.

The symptoms of pink eye are fairly easy to recognize. If you develop these signs, you should make an appointment so your eye doctor can properly diagnose the type of conjunctivitis and recommend an appropriate treatment. Conjunctivitis symptoms can occur in one or both eyes and may include:

  • The sensation that you have something in your eye
  • Burning or itching feeling
  • Excessive eye watering
  • Swollen eyelids
  • White areas of eye appearing pink or red
  • An increase in sensitivity to light
  • Eye discharge

Pink eye can affect one or both eyes at the same time, and there are three primary causes of the condition.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

This form of conjunctivitis is common in patients who suffer from seasonal allergies. Pink eye can develop if you come in contact with an allergen that triggers a reaction in the eyes. Another form of allergic conjunctivitis, giant papillary conjunctivitis, is caused by the chronic presence of a foreign object in the eye. If you wear hard contacts, do not replace contacts frequently, have exposed sutures, or wear a prosthetic eye, you are more susceptible to this form of pink eye.

Infectious Conjunctivitis

  • Bacterial: Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious and is most common in children, but can affect many adults as well. This infection is typically caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria from our own bodies. You can contract his form of pink eye by using contaminated eye makeup, from contact with others, or by touching your eyes with unwashed hands. Sharing contacts or eye makeup, or not properly cleaning your contact lenses can also result in a bacterial infection.
  • Viral: Viral pink eye is usually contracted through viruses associated with colds. This form of conjunctivitis is caught after being exposed to a cough or sneeze of someone who has an upper respiratory tract infection. You can also contract viral pink eye from your own respiratory infection.

Chemical Conjunctivitis

This form of pink eye is caused by exposure to irritants such as chlorinated swimming pools, noxious chemicals, or pollution.

Once your doctor has identified the cause of your symptoms and discomfort, you can proceed with treatment.

Cold or Warm Compress

A cold compress can relieve pressure around the eyes, providing temporary relief. After meeting with your eye doctor, they may provide you with a special cold compress mask to use in combination with other treatments. A cold compress may provide relief for chemical conjunctivitis, but contact with certain chemicals are considered emergencies and require immediate medical attention. Some patients find that warm compresses also provide relief.

Antibiotic and Steroidal Eye Drops

The type of eye drops or ointments prescribed will vary depending on the type of conjunctivitis you have. If you have a bacterial form of pink eye, you will need antibiotic eye drops to eliminate the infection. In most cases, you will need to use the eye drops several times a day and continue their use until the infection has been completely eliminated.

If you have a viral form of pink eye, your eye doctor may prescribe steroidal eye drops or ointments. These can reduce inflammation and provide relief from painful symptoms while the virus runs it course. It can take two to three weeks for viral infections to subside.

Steroidal eye drops may also be prescribed for patients suffering from allergic conjunctivitis. These drops can relieve inflammation so you can make it through allergy season without painful and frustrating symptoms.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Your doctor may also recommend an anti-inflammatory medication in addition to these treatments. Anti-inflammatories may include drops, topical ointments, or pills. These work to reduce inflammation and painful symptoms associated with several different forms of pink eye, including bacterial, viral, and allergic.

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