Conjunctivitis or also called pink eye is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the tissue that lines the eyelid’s inner surface and covers the eye’s white part. It is common especially in children. It may affect one or both eyes and it may be highly contagious especially at home and in schools. Although it is a minor eye infection, it may lead to more serious problems if left untreated. Remember conjunctivitis a lot of the time is not an infection so does not necessarily need antibiotics.
Here are some common causes of conjunctivitis:
• Bacterial infection
• Viral infection
• Allergic reaction to irritants like smoke, pollen, chlorine or make-up ingredients
• Preservatives in contact lens solutions or many of the bottled eye drops
Conjunctivitis is usually characterized by the following symptoms:
• Itchy eye/s
• Excessive tearing
• Gritty feeling in the eye/s
• Burning sensation in the eye/s
• Discharge from the eye/s
• Pink discoloration of the white part of the eye/s
• Swollen eyelids
• Increased sensitivity to light.
A comprehensive eye examination is usually performed to diagnose conjunctivitis. Tests may include the following:
• Evaluation of the conjunctiva and its surrounding tissues with the use of magnification and bright light.
• Patient history will be taken to determine what causes the eye condition.
• Visual acuity measurements will be done to determine the extent that the vision may be affected.
• Evaluation of the inner structures of the eye to make sure that no other tissues are affected.
• Cultures or smears of conjunctival tissue may be taken when the condition is chronic or when it does not respond to treatment.
The treatment for conjunctivitis will depend on what is causing it, to wit:
• If it is caused by allergies, the irritants should be removed or avoided. Artificial tears and cool compress may be used as home remedies to relieve discomfort. In more advanced cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, antihistamines and topical steroidal eye drops may be prescribed.
• If it is caused by bacteria, antibiotic eye drops or ointments may be prescribed.
• If it is viral, it cannot be cured by antibiotics. Artificial tear solutions and cool compresses may be used to relieve the symptoms. Topical steroid drops may be prescribed. An ophthalmic iodine eye wash may also be performed in your optometrist’s clinic.
• If it is caused by chemical irritants, flushing of the eyes with saline may be done. Topical steroids may also be required.
• If you’re using contact lenses, you may be advised to discontinue use while you have conjunctivitis. You may also be asked to use a different type of lens or solution. Solution induced conjunctivitis is very common. Daily disposable contact lenses are best in this case – they come in unpreserved saline and thrown out for a new pair every day.
• Proper eye hygiene should be observed to prevent the condition from spreading. Hands should be washed properly and frequently. Avoid touching the eyes with bare hands. Do not share items like cosmetics and towels that come in contact with the eyes.
While it may be annoying and it can cause extreme discomfort, this eye condition does not pose a serious threat. Just make sure to have your eye checked when you start exhibiting its symptoms to prevent the conjunctivitis from progressing into a more serious condition.