What You Need to Know About Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is another term for "pink eye," which is an inflammation of the eyelid and the outer layer of the eye. It is often called pink eye because the eye becomes bright red, and this intensifies if the person suffering from conjunctivitis itches or rubs the eye. Allergic conjunctivitis is the most common form and causes swelling and redness of the eye. A swelling of the eye takes place as well as watery discharged. Bacterial conjunctivitis is another form, and it has a few different symptoms, such as a yellow or grayish mucus that forms around the eye. Viral conjunctivitis is often a result of a viral issue such as a respiratory infection or sore throat. This form can cause a problem because it can spread to both eyes. Chemical conjunctivitis causes extreme pain and irritability of the eye, and is typically caused by certain chemicals like sodium hydroxide.
Generally conjunctivitis is caused by harmful bacteria or some kind of viral infection that has been passed from one person to another. Allergies and irritants can also cause pink eye, and no matter what the cause, it is highly contagious. Patients who rub the eye can pass the bacteria on to other people through touch. Many times it is passed to others due to lack of hygiene, such as washing the hands. Symptoms of conjunctivitis include red eyes, swollen eyelids, and severe, often painful itching of the eye. Often, the eyes stay watery throughout this period and have "weeping" characteristics. In most cases, pink eye lasts anywhere from two to five days at the very longest. Each type of conjunctivitis may be treated differently. Doctors may prescribe an antibiotic eye drop or cream that can be applied directly to the eyes. Allergic conjunctivitis is often treated a bit differently, with antihistamines or specially formulate eye drops. Some over the counter remedies are available, but may not relieve all of the symptoms as quickly as prescriptions.
There are some simple things you can do to help prevent conjunctivitis. First, be sure to wash your hands often, using hot soapy water. Try to avoid touching or rubbing the eyes. Change towels and washcloths at least every other day, so bacteria does not grow and then spread onto the eyes by drying your face with it. Mascara and eyeliner should be discarded after a month or two, since bacteria can be harbored and multiply on cosmetics. Never use someone else's makeup, and always be sure contact lenses are clean. Another condition known as neonatal conjunctivitis affects babies that are up to one month old. Babies suffering from this condition will need special treatment from a physician.
For more information about conjunctivitis, please refer to the following websites:
- Pink Eye – Some basic information about pink eye.
- Causes and Symptoms – A list of common causes and associated symptoms.
- Background and Overview – Background information and medical overview.
- For Kids – Information geared towards kids; pink eye is a very common problem in schools.
- Pink Eye Facts – More causes, signs, symptoms, and information.