Eye Diseases Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye (in the U.S.) or Madras Eye (in India), is the inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the eyelids where eyelashes exist. When the conjunctiva is exposed to bacteria, a virus or an allergen, tears are spread to the conjunctiva to wash away the irritant. These tears contain enzymes and antibodies that kill the bacteria, further protecting the eye.

Variations of conjunctivitis include:

  • Blepharoconjunctivitis, the combination of an inflamed conjunctiva and inflamed eyelids
  • Keratoconjunctivitis, when the conjunctiva and the cornea are both inflamed.

What Causes Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis

Although it’s most commonly caused by viruses, conjunctivitis can also be caused by allergies, bacteria, fungus, Chlamydia and parasitic agents. One of the most contagious forms of conjunctivitis, especially among children, is pink eye, a term that refers to the type of conjunctivitis caused by a viral infection. If your child comes down with pink eye, treat the condition immediately and isolate your child so as not so spread the virus to others, as it is highly contagious. Experts recommend that school age children be kept home until the infection clears. In addition, towels, washcloths and linens should be washed immediately and not be shared.

 

Less contagious forms of conjunctivitis are caused by:

  • allergies
  • dry eyes
  • exposure to chemicals
  • overuse of contact lenses
  • some systemic diseases
  • vitamin deficiencies.

Newborns can also contract conjunctivitis from bacteria in the birth canal, a condition known as ophthalmia neonatorum. This type of conjunctivitis must be treated immediately to preserve the baby’s eyesight.

Conjunctivitis Symptoms

Common symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • blurred vision
  • eye pain or irritation
  • increased or excessive watering of the eyes
  • itching or burning
  • overnight crusting of the affected eyelid
  • production or thick discharge of pus
  • redness of the eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • swollen eyelids.

Conjunctivitis Treatment

Treatment for conjunctivitis depends on the cause of the condition:

 

  • For a viral conjunctivitis infection: When pink eye is caused by a viral infection, treatment revolves around suppressing symptoms until the virus resolves itself. To ease the discomfort caused by swollen eyelids, apply warm compresses to the affected eyelid.Frequent hand washing is also recommended to prevent the spread of the disease, especially at home where conjunctivitis can spread among family members, particularly if they share towels. Wash towels in detergent and warm water for thorough cleansing. Viral infections usually clear up within a few weeks. In severe cases, conjunctivitis may require medical attention, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication or antihistamines. Topical steroid drops are also sometimes used.
  • For an allergic conjunctivitis infection: Conjunctivitis treatment for conditions that arise out of allergic reactions calls for removing the allergen and soothing the symptoms. Common allergens that cause conjunctivitis include pet dander, dust and certain foods. Cold compresses tend to help soothe the swelling.

 

  • For a bacterial conjunctivitis infection: With bacterial conjunctivitis, treatment usually revolves around antibiotics, generally in the form of eye drops.

Preventing Conjunctivitis

Good hygiene can help prevent conjunctivitis from developing or spreading. Follow these recommendations to ensure optimal health:

  • Do not share cosmetics with others.
  • Do not share towels, washcloths or handkerchiefs with an infected individual.
  • Follow your physician’s instructions for contact lens maintenance and care.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer gel.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes.
  • Replace eye cosmetics and applicators regularly.
  • Wash and change your pillowcases frequently.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling contact lenses.