Conjunctivitis - Pink Eye

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1 Conjunctivitis - Pink Eye Introduction Conjunctivitis is often called pink eye. It causes inflammation of the thin, clear lining inside the eyelid and on the white of the eye. The inflammation gives the eye a pink or reddish color. There are many things that can cause conjunctivitis. These include viruses, bacteria, and allergens. It is one of the most common and treatable eye problems in children and adults. This reference summary explains the causes and symptoms of each type of conjunctivitis. Information about the way conjunctivitis is diagnosed and treated is also included. Conjunctivitis Conjunctivitis is a common eye condition worldwide. It is often known as pink eye because it causes the white of the eye to take on a pink or red color. Conjunctivitis gets its name from the part of the eye that it affects: the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, affects children as well as adults. The most common symptom of pink eye is inflammation or swelling of the conjunctiva. Pink eye is caused by viruses, bacteria, and allergens like pet dander or dust mites. Irritants like smog or swimming pool chlorine can also cause it. Healthcare providers often categorize pink eye, or conjunctivitis, by what causes it. It may be referred to as: Viral conjunctivitis Bacterial conjunctivitis Allergic conjunctivitis 1

2 Symptoms The symptoms of conjunctivitis may vary depending on the type. The main symptom shared by all types of conjunctivitis is a pink or red color in the white of the eye or eyes. Bacterial conjunctivitis often causes a pink or red color in only one eye. If both eyes are affected, it is often viral or allergic conjunctivitis. Another symptom of conjunctivitis is the discharge of pus from the eyes. Often the pus is yellow-green in color. It is more common in bacterial conjunctivitis. Other symptoms of conjunctivitis include: Increased tearing Itching, irritation, or burning Swelling of the conjunctiva Conjunctivitis symptoms may also include: Crusting of eyelids or lashes, especially in the morning Feeling like something is in the eye or an urge to rub the eye Sensitivity to bright light Symptoms of a cold, flu, or other respiratory infection Sometimes conjunctivitis causes the lymph node in front of the ear to swell and become tender. The swollen lymph node may feel like a small lump when touched. Lymph nodes act as filters in the body, collecting and destroying viruses and bacteria. Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are similar to common allergy symptoms. These include an itchy nose, sneezing, a scratchy throat, or asthma. Causes Healthcare providers often categorize conjunctivitis by what causes it. These include: Viral conjunctivitis Bacterial conjunctivitis Allergic conjunctivitis 2

3 Viral conjunctivitis can be caused by a number of different viruses. Many of these viruses can also cause upper respiratory tract infections, colds, or a sore throat. Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by certain bacteria that infect the eye. Bacterial conjunctivitis usually begins in one eye. Bacteria are living things that have only one cell. Many can cause infection. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by the body's reaction to certain substances to which it is allergic. Some examples of allergens that may cause allergic conjunctivitis include: Contact lenses and lens solution Cosmetics, or make-up Dander from animals Dust mites Molds Pollen from trees, plants, grasses, and weeds Allergic conjunctivitis often happens more frequently among people with other allergic conditions, such as hay fever, asthma, and eczema. It usually affects both eyes. Allergic conjunctivitis: Can happen seasonally, when pollen counts are high Can happen year-round due to indoor allergens, such as dust mites and animal dander Diagnosis Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms and history. Most cases of conjunctivitis can be diagnosed without any additional tests. Sometimes samples of eye discharge may be tested to find out more information about the type of conjunctivitis. 3

4 Treatment Treatment for conjunctivitis depends on the type and severity. Eye drops and cold packs may be used to relieve the dryness and swelling caused by most types of conjunctivitis. Antiviral medication can be prescribed by a physician to treat serious forms of viral conjunctivitis. Antibiotics will not improve viral conjunctivitis because antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Most cases of viral conjunctivitis are mild, with three to five days into the infection being the worst. The infection may clear up in seven to fourteen days without treatment. In some cases, viral conjunctivitis can take two to three weeks or more to clear up. Bacterial conjunctivitis is often mild and may last as few as two to three days or up to two to three weeks. It often improves in two to five days without treatment. However, special antibiotics are often prescribed to treat the infection. Mild bacterial conjunctivitis may get better without antibiotic treatment. However, antibiotics can help shorten the illness and reduce the spread of infection to others. These are usually topical medications in the form of eye drops or ointment. Allergic conjunctivitis clears up once the allergen or irritant is removed. This type of conjunctivitis may also be treated with allergy medications. Allergy medications and certain eye drops, including some prescription eye drops, can provide relief from allergic conjunctivitis. In some cases, a combination of drugs may be needed to improve symptoms. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best treatment if you have conjunctivitis caused by an allergen. Prevention Conjunctivitis caused by allergens is not contagious. However, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can be easily spread from person to person. You can greatly reduce the spread of conjunctivitis by following some simple steps for good hygiene. 4

5 If you have viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, you can help limit its spread to other people by following these steps: Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes. Wash away any discharge from around the eyes several times a day. Hands should be washed first. Then a clean washcloth or fresh cotton ball or tissue can be used to cleanse the eye area. Throw away cotton balls or tissues after using them. If a washcloth is used, it should be washed with hot water and detergent. Wash your hands with soap and warm water when done. Do not use the same eye drop dispenser that was used for infected eyes on noninfected eyes, even for the same person. You should also wash your hands after applying eye drops or ointment. Wash pillowcases, sheets, washcloths, and towels in hot water and detergent. Hands should be washed after handling these items. Avoid sharing articles like towels, blankets, and pillowcases. Clean eyeglasses, being careful not to contaminate items, like towels, that might be shared by other people. Do not share makeup, make-up brushes, contact lenses and containers, or eyeglasses. Do not use swimming pools. In addition, if you have bacterial or viral conjunctivitis, there are steps you can take to avoid re-infection once the infection goes away. For example, you should throw away and replace any eye or face makeup you used while infected. Replace contact lens solutions that you used while your eyes were infected. Also throw away disposable contact lenses and cases that were used while your eyes were infected. Clean extended wear lenses as directed. Clean eyeglasses and cases that were used while infected. 5

6 Summary Conjunctivitis is an eye condition that causes inflammation of the thin, clear lining inside the eyelid and on the white of the eye. The inflammation gives the eye a pink or reddish color. Conjunctivitis is often called "pink eye." Conjunctivitis is one of the most common and treatable eye conditions in children and adults. There are many things that can cause conjunctivitis, including viruses, bacteria, and allergens. A major symptom of conjunctivitis is a pink or red color in the white of the eye or eyes. Often, if only one eye is affected it is a case of bacterial conjunctivitis. If both eyes are affected, it is often a case of viral or allergic conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is easily diagnosed. Different types of conjunctivitis require different kinds of treatment. If you or a loved one has conjunctivitis, talk to a healthcare provider to find out the best way to treat it. 6

About Conjunctivitis (source:

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