Conjunctivitis also known as pink eye is an inflammation of the outermost layer of the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelid. It makes the eye appear pink or reddish. Pain, burning, scratchiness, or itchiness may occur. The most common infectious causes are viral followed by bacterial. The viral infection may occur along with other symptoms of a common cold but both viral and bacterial cases are easily spread between people. Allergies to pollen or animal hair are also a common cause. Diagnosis is often based on signs and symptoms and occasionally, a sample of the discharge is sent for culture.
Prevention is partly by hand-washing. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. In the majority of viral cases, there is no specific treatment. Most cases due to a bacterial infection also resolve without treatment; however, antibiotics can shorten the illness.
CAUSES OF CONJUNCTIVITIS
Viral or bacterial conjunctivitis: Viral or bacterial conjunctivitis can affect either one or both eyes. Watery discharge is often seen in viral conjunctivitis. In bacterial conjunctivitis, a thicker, yellow-green like discharge is seen. These symptoms often can be confused with cold or respiratory infection symptoms. However, both of the causes are highly contagious. Therefore care must be taken to prevent it from spreading
Allergic conjunctivitis: Allergic conjunctivitis often affects both eyes, as a reaction to allergens. To combat these allergens, your body will create antibodies, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), which in turn triggers the specialized cells known as mast and histamines. These specialized cells, in turn, produce allergy signs and symptoms
Conjunctivitis resulting from irritation: Certain chemicals or foreign objects in the eye can also lead to Conjunctivitis. As your body naturally reacts to the disposal of these irritants, symptoms of conjunctivitis will arise.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- Redness of the eyes
- Watering of the eyes
- Itching of the eyes
- Gritty feeling, especially when blinking
- Discharge that forms a crust like structure around the eyelids preventing it from opening
- Constant tearing up
Viral conjunctivitis signs and symptoms
This is often associated with the infection of the upper respiratory tract, a common cold or a sore throat. Its symptoms include excessive watering and itching of the eye, the infection usually begins in one eye but may easily spread to the other eye.
Bacterial conjunctivitis signs and symptoms
Bacterial conjunctivitis causes the rapid onset redness of the eyes, swelling of the eyelid, and a sticky discharge. Typically, symptoms develop first in one eye, but may spread to the other eye within 2–5 days. Conjunctivitis due to common pus-producing bacteria causes marked grittiness or irritation and a stringy, opaque, grayish or yellowish discharge that may cause the lids to stick together, especially after sleep.
Allergic conjunctivitis signs and symptoms
Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva due to allergy. The specific allergens may differ among patients. Symptoms result from the release of histamine and other active substances by mast cells, and consist of redness (mainly due to vasodilatation of the peripheral small blood vessels), swelling of the conjunctiva, itching, and increased production of tears.
PREVENTION OF CONJUNCTIVITIS
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, especially before eating.
- Keep your eyes clean and your hands away from eyes especially when they are not clean.
- If infected, wash or change your pillowcase every day until the infection goes away.
- Don’t touch or rub your infected eye with your fingers, use tissues to wipe.
- Don’t wear, and never share, eye makeup, eye drops, or contact lenses. If infected, wear glasses until your eye heals. And throw away disposable lenses, or be sure to clean extended-wear lenses and all eyewear cases.
- If infected, limit eye drops do not use them for more than a few days unless your eye doctor tells you to as it could make the redness worse.
- Protect your eyes from dirt and other things that irritate them.
TREATMENT OF CONJUNCTIVITIS
- Viruses: This type of conjunctivitis or pinkeye often results from the viruses that cause a common cold. Just as a cold must run its course, the same is true for this form of pinkeye, which usually lasts from 4 to 7 days. Remember, it can be very contagious, so do everything you can to prevent its spread. Antibiotics will not help anything caused by a virus.
- Bacteria: If bacteria, including those related to sexually transmitted diseases, caused your conjunctivitis, it is okay to take antibiotics. Eye-drops and ointments may need to be applied inside your eyelid three to four times a day for 5 to 7 days. For more stubborn infections or for rare cases of conjunctivitis caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia, you might get an oral antibiotic.
- Irritants: For pinkeye caused by an irritating substance, use water to wash the substance from the eye for 5 minutes. Your eyes should begin to improve within 4 hours. If your conjunctivitis was caused by acid or alkaline material such as bleach, immediately rinse the eyes with lots of water and see a physician immediately.
- Allergies: Conjunctivitis tied to allergies should improve once you get your allergy treated and avoid your allergy trigger. Antihistamines(either oral or drops) can give relief in the meantime.