Red, itchy, and watery eyes with discharge? The self-diagnosis will leave you groaning about conjunctivitis, but it’s always an eye specialist who can let you know for sure. Also known as pink eye, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the thin, clear tissue that covers the white portion of the eye and also lines the inside of the eyelid. While pink eye can cause discomfort, it rarely affects the vision. It is, however, contagious, which makes early diagnosis and treatment important to limit its spread. Individuals more prone to contracting the infection include: children, adolescents, teachers, healthcare workers, parents and others who work closely with children or help treat the condition. The spread of conjunctivitis when the infection is widespread puts anyone at risk when you access public spaces.
As the name goes, the most common and apparent symptoms is redness in the white of the eye. There are other symptoms to look out for as well:
- Itchy or burning eyes
- Constantly tearing up (not counting emotional upheavals)
- Thick discharge (white, yellow, or greenish) that crusts over the eyelashes uncomfortably or painfully while asleep
- Blurred vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
Causes of Conjunctivitis
There are many causative factors for conjunctivitis. Your treatment depends on the type of infection you have:Viral conjunctivitis – It is the most common form of pink eye and is caused by viruses that cause the common cold. So your symptoms may begin with that of a common cold too. And just as is with a common cold, viral conjunctivitis too will run its course or can be supplemented with antibiotics as per your physician’s discretion. This type of conjunctivitis can be highly contagious.Bacterial conjunctivitis – Pink eye caused by bacterial infections, including those related to other conditions such as sexually transmitted diseases, is usually treated with antibiotics. They can be administered via oral medication, eye drops, or ointment, again based on your physician’s guidance. Allergies and irritants – Another common cause for conjunctivitis are allergens and irritants such as make-up, creams, pollutants, pollen and other substances that get into the eye. Symptoms that accompany the condition can include intense itching, inflammation of the eyes, sneezing as well as watery nasal discharge. The condition does not typically require antibiotics or oral medication other than antihistamines along with allergy eye drops.
How Can You Prevent Spreading Conjunctivitis?
If you have young ones at home with conjunctivitis or suffering from it yourself, there’s a lot you can do to prevent the infection from spreading to others:
- Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as hand towels, contact lenses, pillows, etc.
- Cough or sneeze with your nose and mouth closed.
- Wash hands often especially after school, office or after staying out in public places. Alternatively, you can also keep a hand sanitizer handy.
- Clean shared surfaces frequently. This includes tables, door handles, faucet handles in bathrooms, phones, keyboards, etc.
- Treat allergies or seasonal flu immediately.
- Wear goggles while swimming to protect yourself from bacteria in the water that can cause conjunctivitis.
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