Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a membrane that lines the inside of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. The inflammation causes the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva to become more visible, hence the disease’s common name “pink eye.”
In addition to typical eye redness, conjunctivitis can also cause the following symptoms:
Other eye problems, including dry eye or trauma, can sometimes lead to similar symptoms.
Conjunctivitis can be caused by any of the following:
Depending on the cause, conjunctivitis can develop in one or both eyes.
Conjunctivitis that is caused by a virus or bacteria is usually highly contagious. Regular handwashing is crucial when you have a cold, or if someone close to you has conjunctivitis or another viral or bacterial infection.
People who wear contact lenses, especially extended-wear models, must be careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and storage. Poor contact lens care can lead to bacterial contamination, which can spread to the eyes.
Be very vigilant when trying in-store cosmetic testers, as they can be contaminated with viruses, bacteria, and even fungi if single-use applicators are not provided. When in doubt, avoid them altogether!
Allergic conjunctivitis is avoidable when caused by an avoidable allergen. For example, if you are allergic to cats or dogs, avoid touching the animal and, if you do, wash your hands as soon as possible afterwards. If you are planning to visit someone who has an animal you’re allergic to, consider taking an antihistamine beforehand.
It is much harder to avoid seasonal allergies like pollen, because the particles are suspended in air. However, there are certain measures you can take to limit your exposure.
For all types of conjunctivitis, the first line of treatment consists of easing discomfort, for example, by
For infectious conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by one of the cold viruses, therefore antibiotic drops or ointments are of no use. Symptoms generally clear up within a few days. The same is true of most bacterial conjunctivitis. To be on the safe side, check with your pharmacist. If you need a treatment, they will refer you to a health professional who can prescribe one.
If you wear contact lenses, it is important to discard the pair you were wearing when the infection appeared and avoid wearing contacts altogether until your symptoms have subsided. It is also best to throw away any makeup you were using when you came down with pink eye, and to disinfect your makeup accessories.
For allergic conjunctivitis
Antihistamine eye drops can be used if your symptoms are limited to the eyes. Antihistamine tablets (or syrups) help soothe all symptoms, including rashes and itchy nose or throat. Consult your pharmacist if you’re not sure which antihistamine to choose.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.