IntroductionConjunctivitis is an inflammation of the thin, film-like, membrane that covers the inner surface of the eyelids as well as the white eye wall (sclera). The conjunctiva contains many small blood vessels which may become larger, making your eye appear red or pink.
CausesThere are numerous causes of conjunctivitis, including,
VirusesViral conjunctivitis is typically caused by adenovirus, the same virus that causes the common cold. Other viruses that can cause conjunctivitis include herpes zoster, herpes simplex, HIV, picornavirus, and poxvirus.
BacteriaBacteria such as Staphlyococci, streptococci, gonococci, and Chlamydia can infect the conjunctiva.
AllergiesEnvironmental or seasonal allergy can affect the eyes. Contact lens may also cause an allergic reaction.
ToxicExposure to toxic fumes or chemicals can cause eye irritation. A toxic reaction can also be seen with some eye drops used to treat infection or glaucoma. Or, it may be due to preservatives in eye drops.
SymptomsUsually, viral conjunctivitis is associated with profuse tearing of both eyes. In many cases, the infection spreads from one eye to the other eye within a few days. It may also be associated with photophobia or light sensitivity and blurry vision due to excessive tearing. There is usually minimal itching. Patients with viral conjunctivitis are quite uncomfortable. Sometimes the symptoms are associated with an upper respiratory infection. The eye symptoms can last up to 10-14 days.
DiagnosisIf you believe you are experiencing symptoms of conjunctivitis, you should see an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye examination.
Not all red (or pink) eyes are created equal. Sometimes, a red eye is due to a relatively benign condition such as conjunctivitis. Other times, a red eye may herald a severe infection or inflammation of the eye (ie, a corneal ulcer, scleritis, iritis)The examination involves a thorough history and an examination of the front of the eye and face. Subtle changes can only be detected with a slit-lamp or microscope. The exam will involve the instillation of a numbing eye drop, which does not affect your vision. The doctor will examine underneath the upper and lower eyelids. A culture of the discharge is usually not required.