Conjunctivitis (also known as red or pink eye) is something many people have experienced in their lifetime. Most of us are familiar with the symptoms; or at least we think we are. The term “conjunctivitis” actually just refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane covering the surface of your eyeball).
This condition can be the result of a number of different situations, all of which require different treatment. If you think you have conjunctivitis: consult your doctor before trying to treat it yourself. They can verify the cause and confirm which course of treatment you can take.
Viral strains of conjunctivitis are highly contagious and spread quickly. Though it initially only presents in one eye, it’s not uncommon for viral conjunctivitis to infect the second eye before long. As the name suggests, viral strains are caused by viruses; often the same viruses that cause illnesses like the common cold, tonsillitis, and cold sores.
Viral Conjunctivitis usually begins with an unusual amount of tears and watery discharge. Often, the patient will also notice swelling and tenderness in the lymph nodes by the ears or under the jaw. The eyes will likely be itchy, red, and quite sensitive to light.
Viral Conjunctivitis will usually clear up on its own in a matter of weeks. However, you should still see a doctor to confirm your diagnosis. If you’ve misdiagnosed yourself, you could be waiting for healing that won’t come on its own, damaging your eye in the process.
Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious, so you should avoid heavily populated areas and wash your hands frequently until the infection has gone.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is particularly common, especially among children. This type of infection occurs when certain types of bacteria come in contact with the eye. Bacterial conjunctivitis is often caused by the same types of bacteria responsible staph infections, as well as some sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. If a woman has these or other bacteria in her body when giving birth, her child may contract pink eye while passing through the birth canal.
In bacterial conjunctivitis, patients often feel extreme stinging, itching, or other irritation in the affected eye. The eye appears quite red, and usually exhibits some swelling. Some watery discharge may be present, though more often, the patient notices thick white, green, or yellow discharge. This discharge is quite sticky and can sometimes seal the eye shut during sleep.
In cases of bacterial conjunctivitis, a doctor will usually prescribe antibiotic eye drops. It is important to take the drops exactly as you are directed in order to fully complete the treatment.
This strain is contagious through contact, so you should stay home and wash your hands regularly until the infection is gone. You’ll also need to dispose of any makeup or products you’ve used on the affected eye to avoid reinfecting yourself.
Dust, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens can all cause inflammation of the conjunctiva. The best way to relieve the itching and watering associated with an allergic reaction is to remove the allergen, or to take allergy medication proactively.
This unusual type of conjunctivitis occurs when the body reacts negatively to a chronic foreign body making contact with the eye, like contact lenses or a prosthetic eye. This condition is a reaction, not an infection, and can stem from improper hygiene or improper contact lens use.
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