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What is Conjunctivitis? What You Need to Know About Pink Eye

July 6, 2015

Ever wake up in the morning with one of your eyes crusted shut? It’s itchy and you wonder, “What’s going on here?” You walk over to the mirror and see that your eye is extremely bloodshot and weeping some sort of strange discharge. “This can’t be good,” you think. And you’re right. There’s a good chance that you may have conjunctivitis—otherwise known as “pink-eye” to the majority of the population. Pink-eye is an infection that doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, etc. It’s an equal opportunity infection and anyone can get it, which makes it quite common. It’s even more common if you work in a school setting (be it younger children or college-aged young adults) because of the close vicinity of the people.

Today I’m sharing a little bit about Conjunctivitis with you so that you don’t freak out if you or someone you know suspects they may have it.

What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is an infection that causes the swelling of the Conjunctiva. The Conjunctiva is the layer of skin that layers the inside of the eyelid; it’s what protects your eye when you close your eyes.

What Are the Symptoms of Conjunctivitis?

Depending on what kind of Conjunctivitis you’re suffering from, symptoms can differ. However, general pink eye symptoms include:

-Increase tears

-Thick yellow discharge or crust after sleep

-Itchy eyes

-Blurry eyes

-Increased sensitivity to light


What Are the Different Kinds of Conjunctivitis?

That’s right. We mentioned before that your symptoms may differ depending on the type of Conjunctivitis you have—so what are the different kinds?

The first kind of Conjunctivitis is Allergic Conjunctivitis. This is, as you may have guessed, caused by allergies. This type of infection can easily spread to both eyes rather than effecting only one. If you are using drugs and cosmetics, or the same contact lenses for too long a period of time, this could increase your risk of contracting Allergic Conjunctivitis.

The second kind of Conjunctivitis is Viral Conjunctivitis. This usually comes along in a package, along with other symptoms of a virus. Also accompanying this sort of Conjunctivitis could be a sore throat, a cold, or an upper respiratory virus. This sort of Conjunctivitis lasts about 2-3 weeks and cannot be treated with an antibiotic.

The third kind of Conjunctivitis, and most well-known, is Bacterial Conjunctivitis. If left untreated for a prolonged period of time, then Bacterial Conjunctivitis can cause serious long-term damage to the eye. That being said, it is very commonly contracted, especially by people who are often surrounded by others, such as young school children, teachers, or anyone in a college campus community. It can be contagious and passed from one eye to the other or to other people. This sort of infection lasts anywhere from 2-3 days, to 2-3 weeks. The good news is however, that it can be treated with topical antibiotics prescribed by an eye doctor.

What Causes Conjunctivitis?

The causes of Conjunctivitis range depending on what type of Conjunctivitis you contract (details above). It’s possible to get Conjunctivitis from allergens, like pollen or dust, a viral infection, like a cold or sore throat, or from bacteria, such as an STD like chlamydia or gonorrhea.

How is Conjunctivitis Diagnosed?

In the scenario at the beginning of this article, it’s clear that this person diagnosed him or herself, but the only real way to be sure that you have Conjunctivitis is to be examined by an eye care professional. Your eye doctor will take a patient history from you, including your recent activities and typical daily routine. The doctor will also evaluate the state of your conjunctiva and of your eyesight and movement. Based on his or her examinations, the doctor will be able to diagnose you and if in the unfortunate event that it is determined you have Conjunctivitis, then you will be prescribed a treatment plan.

How is Conjunctivitis Treated?

As mentioned earlier, if you have Viral Conjunctivitis, it’s not possible to treat it with antibiotics. If you have Bacterial Conjunctivitis then this is possible. However, there are other steps you can take while treating and recovering from Conjunctivitis to help speed up the healing process and prevent yourself from getting the infection again.

One thing you can do, obviously, is to keep your eye and the area surrounding it clean. This means that you should not wear any sort of makeup; if you were wearing makeup when you contracted the infection, we highly recommend you throw it out and replace it with products once your infection is gone. Also try your best to keep your hands clean. Most people don’t realize how often they touch their eyes on a daily basis. Try to wash your hands as much as possible and if you don’t have constant access to soap and water, carry hand sanitizer. Another thing you can do is to make sure you wash your laundry and linens. Pillow cases, sheets, towels, and wash cloths are especially important to keep clean as they come in contact with your face and eyes most often. If you wear contacts, it’s recommended that during the time you’re healing from Conjunctivitis, you refrain from wearing your contact lenses and instead only wear glasses for that period in time. Lastly, since many people with Conjunctivitis experience dry eyes, it is possible to relieve some discomfort with artificial eye drops.

Do You Have Pink Eye?

There is a lot that Pink Eye involves other than a red eye. Conjunctivitis can cause extreme discomfort and it’s no fun. If you think that you have contracted any form of Conjunctivitis, please contact your eye doctor for a consultation so that you can get properly treated. If you have other questions about eye care health, feel free to peruse the blog!

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