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Conjunctivitis: Types and Treatments

Conjunctivitis, colloquially called pink eye, is one of the most frequently seen eye diseases, especially with children. Conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, a virus or even allergies to ingredients in cosmetics, pollen, and chlorine in pools, or other substances, which come in contact with the eyes. Many types of pink eye can be fairly contagious and rapidly spread at schools and in the office.

This infection ensues when the thin transparent layer of tissue protecting the white part of your eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. You'll be able to recognize pink eye if you notice redness, discharge, itching or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. The three basic kinds of pink eye are: allergic, bacterial and viral conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is often a result of the same viruses that make us have those familiar red and watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of conjunctivitis will often stick around for one to two weeks and then will disappear on their own. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. Viral pink eye is contagious until it's gone, so in the meanwhile wipe away discharge and avoid sharing towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral pink eye should be kept home for three days to a week until it clears up.

A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is most often treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should see an improvement within three or four days of treatment, but always be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics to prevent conjunctivitis from coming back.

Conjunctivitis that results from allergies is not contagious. It occurs more commonly in those who already have seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The red, itchy, watery eyes may be just one aspect of a larger allergic reaction. First of all, when treating allergic pink eye, the irritant itself needs to be removed. Try cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. In cases of chronic allergic infections, steroid eye drops may be prescribed.

With any case conjunctivitis, making sure to practice good hygiene is the best way to prevent it from spreading. Clean your hands thoroughly and often and don't touch your eyes with your hands.

Although pink eye is typically a minor condition, there is sometimes a chance it could develop into a more severe issue. Any time you have signs of conjunctivitis, be sure to have your optometrist examine you so he or she can decide what the best treatment will be.


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