Conjunctivitis or “Pink eye” as
it is known in the U.S. or “Madras eye” as
it is known in India, is an inflammation of the
conjunctiva. The eye appears pink or blood shot
because the blood vessels of the eye are dilated.
The condition is sometimes accompanied by discharge,
but vision remains normal in most cases and there
is only mild discomfort.
Some types of conjunctivitis can be very contagious.
Therefore, if you have this problem, do not let
others come in contact with you nor allow them
to use your things like towels and bed linen.
For that period, avoid going to the office or
Conjunctivitis is a common problem affecting
15% to 20% of the population of developed countries.
It is usually a minor disease but sometimes the
condition can get more alarming with eyes getting
significantly redder. However, it is easily treatable
and usually does not lead to any permanent damage
eye or permanent loss of vision.
Do not confuse conjunctivitis with "pink eyes"
caused by more serious eye disorders like corneal
or glaucoma. In these cases, vision is more likely
to be affected and the long term consequences are
What is the conjunctiva?
It is the thin, clear membrane, which covers
the inner surface of the eyelids and the white
part of the eye, known as the sclera.
What are the types and causes of conjunctivitis?
The three most common types of conjunctivitis
are bacterial, viral or allergic conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is the more serious
type and may take several weeks to cure. It
is caused by contagious viruses. Viral
infections may, at the same time, cause respiratory
troubles or colds and flu-like symptoms. It occurs
mostly during the rainy and winter seasons and
Viral conjunctivitis is sometimes caused by inadequately
disinfected ophthalmic instruments. Inflammation
usually starts in one eye and later spreads to
the other eye.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is the milder type
of this disease and is caused by pyogenic bacteria
like, staphylococcus and streptococcus. Pyogenic
bacteria produce pus-producing infections. The
source of these bacteria may be the patient’s
own body, flora, the environment or other people.
Some kinds of eye or facial cosmetics may also
cause this problem. In bacterial conjunctivitis
also, the inflammation starts in one eye and
easily affects the other eye.
Allergic conjunctivitis usually affects those
with allergic conditions and occurs most commonly
during spring or fall. The allergens causing
may be seasonal or perennial. It may also be
caused by allergies to substances like cosmetics,
contact lens deposits or drugs. Allergic conjunctivitis
usually affects both eyes together starting at
the same time.
What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis?
All types of conjunctivitis show symptoms, such
as, redness, irritation and excessive eye watering.
Itching is variable.
Viral conjunctivitis is accompanied by respiratory
or sore throat problems and colds. In viral conjunctivitis,
the redness is more a diffused pink color to
Bacterial conjunctivitis produces a discharge
that may cause the two eyelids to stick, especially
after sleeping. An irritation is sometimes caused
which produces a sensation of a foreign particle
in the eye. In bacterial conjunctivitis the eye
is very red.
Allergic conjunctivitis can be very itchy and
highly discomforting. The eyelids are often swollen.
These symptoms sometimes appear in the absence
of redness, making diagnosis difficult.
How is conjunctivitis treated?
Conjunctivitis needs medical attention. It is
diagnosed using an instrument called the slit
lamp microscope. Sometimes for selecting the
appropriate treatment, cultures are taken to
find out the type of bacteria causing the condition.
Viral conjunctivitis, like common cold, has
no cure and resolves by itself. To alleviate
the condition, cool compresses and artificial
tears are used. In severe cases, topical steroids
may be used to get relief. Viral conjunctivitis
commonly takes about three weeks to cure.
Bacterial conjunctivitis can be cured in a few
days by using antibiotic eye drops or ointment
that covers a broad range of bacteria.
Allergic conjunctivitis sometimes presents problems
when children are involved. Some of the worst
cases of conjunctivitis belong to this category.
Cool compresses and artificial tears are used
to bring some relief to the patient. In more
severe cases, non-steroidal antii-inflammatory
medications and antihistamines may be used. For
the worst cases, topical steroids drops may be
used reduce discomfort.
To prevent the spread of conjunctivitis some
simple precautions are needed. These are; avoid
touching others, avoid sharing towels and bed
linen, use single use disposable tissues instead
of handkerchiefs, wash your hands frequently,
disinfect things you are likely to touch, such
as, door knobs and counters.