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Conjunctivitis - An Overview

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a transparent tissue that covers the white part of the eyeball. Conjunctivitis occurs when the small blood vessels in the eye are inflamed, which make the eyes appear pink or reddish.

Causes of Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is mainly caused by a virus, bacteria, allergies, a foreign object in the eyes or a chemical splash in the eyes.

Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis

Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis may affect one or both the eyes. Viral conjunctivitis usually produces a watery discharge from the eyes. While, bacterial type produces a thicker, yellowish green discharge. Both types can also be related to colds, sore throat or symptoms associated with respiratory infection.

Allergic conjunctivitis

This type often affects both the eyes. It is caused due to allergens like pollen, in response to which the body releases an antibody to release inflammatory substances, which may trigger the symptoms. Allergic conjunctivitis often leads to intense itching, tearing and inflammation of eyes, sneezing and watery nasal discharge.

Conjunctivitis from irritants

A foreign object or chemical splash in the eyes can also cause conjunctivitis. Sometimes cleaning the eyes to get rid of the object or chemical causes irritation and redness of the eyes. This often triggers the symptoms.

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis symptoms are:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Gritty feeling
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Discharge forming a crust during the night that may prevent the eyes from opening in the morning

Diagnosis of Conjunctivitis

The doctor may ask the patient about the symptoms and examine his eyes to determine if he is suffering from conjunctivitis. The doctors may take a sample of the eye discharge for laboratory testing if the patient has a severe case of conjunctivitis, corneas are affected or repeated infections occur, that are not responding to treatment.

The doctors may also recommend allergy testing to evaluate which allergens are causing the infection.

Treatment of Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis treatment differs with the type of conjunctivitis.

Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotics, eye drops and ointments. This treatment may take up to two weeks to completely heal. The doctors may advise to complete the course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from recurring.

Viral conjunctivitis is extremely contagious and can be treated by prescribing an antiviral medication.

Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated by using eye drops that help in controlling the allergic reactions. These medications often include antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers that are helpful in controlling inflammation.

Conjunctivitis from irritants can often be treated by rinsing the eyes thoroughly with water. If the symptoms are caused by acid falling into eyes, then it is advised to see the doctor immediately.

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