Conjunctivitis

What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. Conjunctivitis, often called “pink eye,” is a common eye disease, especially in children. It may affect one or both eyes. Some forms of conjunctivitis can be highly contagious and easily spread in schools and at home. While conjunctivitis is usually a minor eye infection, sometimes it can develop into a more serious problem.

What Causes Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It can also occur due to an allergic reaction to irritants in the air like pollen and smoke, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics or other products that come in contact with the eyes. Sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia and gonorrhea are less common causes of conjunctivitis.

What are the Symptoms?

People with conjunctivitis may experience the following symptoms:

  • A gritty feeling in one or both eyes
  • Itching or burning sensation in one or both eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • Discharge coming from one or both eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Pink discoloration to the whites of one or both eyes
  • Increased sensitivity to light

How is conjunctivitis treated?

Treatment of conjunctivitis is directed at three main goals:

  1. To increase patient comfort.
  2. To reduce or lessen the course of the infection or inflammation.
  3. To prevent the spread of the infection in contagious forms of conjunctivitis.

The appropriate treatment for conjunctivitis depends on the etiology.

Self-care

Practicing good hygiene is the best way to control the spread of conjunctivitis. Once an infection has been diagnosed, follow these steps:

  • Don’t touch your eyes with your hands.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
  • Change your towel and washcloth daily, and don’t share them with others.
  • Discard eye cosmetics, particularly mascara.
  • Don’t use anyone else’s eye cosmetics or personal eye-care items.
  • Follow your eye doctor’s instructions on proper contact lens care.

See your doctor of optometry when you experience conjunctivitis to help diagnose the cause and the proper course of action.