Pink eye conjunctivitis
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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 school.

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 of the eye or permanent loss of vision.

Do not confuse conjunctivitis with "pink eyes" caused by more serious eye disorders like corneal damage or glaucoma. In these cases, vision is more likely to be affected and the long term consequences are more severe.

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 spreads via the air. 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 this problem 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 the eyes.

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, avoid swimming, and disinfect things you are likely to touch, such as, door knobs and counters.

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