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Conjunctivitis is inflammation or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids (conjunctiva).
Inflammation – conjunctiva; Pink eye
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The conjunctiva is exposed to bacteria and other irritants. Tears help protect the conjunctiva by diluting bacteria and washing it away. Tears also contain enzymes and antibodies which kill bacteria.
There are many causes of conjunctivitis. Viruses are the most common cause. Other causes include bacteria, Chlamydia, fungus, and rarely, parasitic agents.
“Pink eye” refers to a viral infection of the conjunctiva. These infections are especially contagious among children. Handwashing is key to preventing the spread of the virus, which is similar to the type that cause the common cold.
Bacteria are an uncommon cause of conjunctivitis. Many physicians give a mild antibiotic eyedrop for pink eye to prevent bacterial conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is also caused by allergies (allergic conjunctivitis), chemical exposure, and certain systemic (throughout the body) diseases.
Newborns can be infected by bacteria in the birth canal. This condition is called ophthalmia neonatorum, and it must be treated immediately to preserve eyesight. Use of contact lenses, particularly extended-wear lenses, can cause conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis occurs when the transparent membrane that lines the eyelids and part of the eyeball becomes inflamed and red. This may be due to an allergy, infection, a foreign body or blocked tear duct. The redness appears because the small blood vessels in the conjunctiva react to it. If the infection is severe the conjunctiva may be swollen. The eye may then feel gritty and itchy, shed tears and have a yellow or white discharge.
Infection is often due to a seasonal bug — an adeno or influenza virus. It may be associated with a cold or sore throat. These infections are self-limiting. Cold or warm compresses applied to the eyes can be soothing. It does not really require any treatment with eye drops and clears up spontaneously in three or four days.
The discharge in bacterial conjunctivitis can be yellow and purulent (containing pus). This requires antibiotic eye drops. These are effective when applied every two or three hours. An eye ointment may be applied at night.
Infectious conjunctivitis (viral or bacterial) can spread rapidly within a classroom, home or community. Contrary to popular belief, just looking at an affected person does not cause the infection to spread. The virus or bacteria gets transferred from the infected person’s eyes on to table tops, books and other frequently used items. If an uninfected person touches a contaminated surface, and then his or her eyes, the infection is transferred. Wearing dark glasses reduces photophobia due to the infection and prevents people from touching and rubbing their own eyes.
*Redness in the eyes
*Gritty feeling in the eyes
*Itching of the eye
*Sensitivity to light
*Crusts that form on the eyelid overnight
Signs and tests
*Examination of eyes
*Swab of conjunctiva for analysis
Treatment of conjunctivitis depends on the cause.
Allergic conjunctivitis may respond to treatment for underlying allergies, or it may disappear on its own when the allergen that caused it is removed. Cool compresses may be soothing for allergic conjunctivitis.
Antibiotic medication, usually eye drops, is effective for bacterial conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis will disappear on its own. The discomfort of viral or bacterial conjunctivitis can be soothed by applying warm compresses (a clean cloth soaked in warm water) to closed eyes.
Some people apply drops of pure and fresh rose water and get good result. cats-claw the Miracle Herb from the Rain Forest of Peru can cure conjunctivitis by putting drops of the tea in eyes several times over the course of two days. The juice of Amla mixed with Honey if taken twice daily will cure conjunctivitis and glaucoma.It reduces intraocular tention in a remarkable manner.
The outcome is usually good with treatment.
Reinfection within a household or school may occur if preventive measures are not followed.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms persist longer than 3 or 4 days.
If you develop conjunctivitis:
• Don’t touch your eyes. Don’t itch or scratch
• Wash your hands often
• Use a clean towel which must be changed daily. Don’t share towels
• Change your pillow cases everyday
• Don’t share eye cosmetics or personal eye-care items (like mascara and kajal)
• Apply a compress to your eyes by soaking a clean cloth in water and applying it gently to your closed eyelids. Don’t touch both eyes with the same cloth. This reduces the risk of spreading red eye from one eye to the other
• Clean the crusts from the eyelids with a solution of 1 part of baby shampoo to 10 parts of warm water
• Stop wearing contact lenses until the infection completely clears up.
Children with viral conjunctivitis rapidly transmit the infection to their classmates. They should stay at home if infected and return to school only when the eyes no longer have a discharge. This may take around a week.
During the process of birth, a baby’s eyes can become contaminated by organisms present in the birth canal. An antibiotic ointment or drops are usually applied soon after birth to the infant’s eyes to prevent infection. In ancient civilisations, these infections were recognised and treated by applying a few drops of expressed breast milk to the baby’s eyes. Breast milk contains high concentrations of immunoglobulin which can protect against infection.
Sometimes, the tear ducts in babies are blocked. This occurs because either they are not yet fully developed or have been partially blocked by debris during the process of birth. This causes constant tearing of the affected eye and can result in a secondary infection. It usually clears up spontaneously by the age of one year.
All cases of conjunctivitis are not caused by infection. Allergy to substances like pollen, dust or chemicals can also cause the mucous lining of the eyes and airways to respond by releasing chemicals like histamine. This can result in itchy, red and watery eyes, a running nose and sneezing.
Non-steroidal anti allergy eye drops containing sodium chromoglycate are usually all that is needed to clear this. The eyes may respond faster to over-the-counter steroid eye drops but if the diagnosis is wrong, they can cause a flare up of the infection.
Chemicals like chlorine in swimming pools or detergents in soap and shampoo can cause a conjunctivitis-like response. Flushing the eye with clean water usually cures the problem within a day.
Dust particles, saw dust and other foreign bodies can be accidentally imbedded in the eye. An eyelash may also grow inwards. Both these cause constant irritation, redness and watering. If this occurs, you need to consult an ophthalmologist.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.