Better known as Pink Eye, conjunctivitis is the medical term that describes an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the white of your eyes (sclera). This membrane produces mucus to coat and lubricate the surface of the eye. Upon close inspection, you can see fine blood vessels within this membrane. When the conjunctiva becomes irritated, the blood vessels enlarge making the eye appear red in color.
The three most common types of conjunctivitis are:
- Watery discharge
- Glossy looking redness
- Infection usually begins with one eye, can spread.
- Often follows upper respiratory tract infection.
Treatment: Like the common cold, there is no cure for viral conjunctivitis; however, the symptoms can be relieved with cool compresses and artificial tears (found in most pharmacies). For the worst cases, topical steroid drops may be prescribed to reduce the discomfort from inflammation. Viral conjunctivitis usually resolves within 3 weeks.
- To avoid spreading infection, take these simple steps:
- Disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs and counters with diluted bleach solution.
- Don’t swim (some bacteria can be spread in the water).
- Avoid touching the face.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Don’t share towels or washcloths or make up products.
- Do not reuse handkerchiefs (using a tissue is best).
- Avoid shaking hands.
- Usually affects both eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Watery or stringy discharge
Treatment: Remove the allergen if possible. Cool compresses and artificial tears sometimes relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory prescription medications such as Patanol and Zaditor. Some patients with persistent allergic conjunctivitis may also require topical steroid drops.
- Purulent (Pussy) discharge. Lids often stick together overnight.
- Swelling of the conjunctiva
- Meaty Redness
- Irritation, pain and/or a gritty feeling
- Usually affects only one eye, often spreads to fellow eye.
Treatment: In most cases of adult or childhood conjunctivitis, treatment with topical antibiotics is initiated without cultures. If your eye care provider elects for cultures, antibiotic therapy is usually initiated and treatment changed later, if necessary, depending on culture results. Gonococcal conjunctivitis requires intravenous or intramuscular antibiotics in addition to topical therapy
Antibiotics commonly used in the treatment of bacterial conjunctivitis: