Conjunctivitis or pink eye is a condition characterized by inflammation of the membrane that covers the inner lining of the eyelids and some portion of the white of the eye. According to Dr. Michael A. Sherman, Instructor of Emergency Medical Habor Hospital. “Conjunctivitis is extremely common in the United States of America. Ophthalmic reasons account for three percent of all emergency department visits and conjunctivitis is responsible for approximately thirty percent of all eye complaints. Approximately fifteen percent of all the population will have an allergic conjunctivitis episode at some time.”
Signs and Symptoms
- the eye appears red or bloodshot
- unbearable itching of certain eye areas
- eyelids appear inflamed and swollen (with the presence of crusty discharge around the eyelashes that causes them to stick together)
- complaints of blurred vision
- enlarged lymph nodes in front of the ear
- bacterial or viral infection
- allergic response to irritants
- eye injury or trauma
- irritation due to environmental factors (chlorine, dust, smoke, and fumes)+
Treatment for Conjunctivitis
The treatments for conjunctivitis depends on the cause. See your physician for diagnosis and treatment. Your physician will examine your eye and perform a culture swab to analyze and determine the cause of the infection.
- Bacterial Conjunctivitis
Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious. This will be treated with an antibiotic eye ointment, eye drops or in the form of a pill. The ointment or drops will be applied to the inner eye lids 3-4 times per day for 5-7days. When antibiotic pills are prescribed it will be for a 7 day period. Take the antibiotic pills as prescribed to get their full effect. Follow your doctor’s advice regarding cleaning your eye and application of the antibiotic ointment or drops. In the bacterial form of conjunctivitis, once the antibiotic is taken for a period of 24 hours, you will be permitted to attend work and/or school without the fear of spreading the infection to others.
- Viral Conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis like the bacterial form is also highly contagious. However, it is not treatable with antibiotics. The signs and symptoms will run its course for 4 days to 2 weeks.
The application of warm or cold eye compresses 3 – 4 times per day will soothe and ease the discomfort. An alternative medical treatment of applying eye compresses soaked in chamomile or eyesight herbal tea is recommended by alternative medicine advocates for easing and soothing the discomfort. To prevent the spread and cross contamination of the viral form of conjunctivitis adults should not go to work and children should not attend school until the condition subsides.
- Conjunctivitis due to irritants
Conjunctivitis can result from irritation brought about by different products that come into contact with the eye area such as makeup ingredients and contact lenses. The key to treating this form of conjunctivitis is to avoid the specific irritant and any other possible irritants. The treatment is to flush your eye with sterile water for 4-5 minutes; your symptoms should subside after 4-5 hours. To prevent irritating the eyes, ask your doctor about affordable contact lenses from reliable brands.
- Conjunctivitis due to allergens
Allergens can cause conjunctivitis. Seek advice from your physician for treatment. Usually after the allergen is identified and removed and/or an antihistamine is prescribed and taken the symptoms will subside.
- Sexually transmitted Conjunctivitis
The pathogens of sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea can also infect the conjunctiva. Proper treatment with the appropriate antibiotics along with proper handwashing techniques is the key to avoiding cross contamination.
- Ophthalmia Neonatorum Conjunctivitis
This occurs when a baby passes through the birth canal of a mother infected with chlamydia and gonorrhea. Newborns are given a prophylactic treatment of antibiotic eye ointment as a precaution in preventing ophthalmia neonatorum.
Proper hygiene and handwashing are key to preventing the occurrence of conjunctivitis. Here’s how you can prevent the spread of conjunctivitis.
- Do not share eye cosmetics with others.
- Do not share towels, wash cloths or handkerchiefs with others.
- Follow proper directions in caring for your contact lens.
- Use water gradient daily contact lenses rather than extended wear ones.
- Avoid eye irritants and any known allergens that will affect you.
- Avoid swimming in pools that have strong chlorine treatments.
Taking good care of your health and well-being will lessen the chances of getting conjunctivitis.