Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, a thin, transparent layer covering the surface of the inner eyelid and the front of the eye. It affects people of all ages.
What causes conjunctivitis?
The three main types of conjunctivitis are infectious, allergic and chemical. The infectious form, commonly known as “pink eye,” is caused by a contagious virus or bacteria. Your body’s allergies to pollen, cosmetics, animals or fabrics often bring on allergic conjunctivitis. Irritants like air pollution, noxious fumes and chlorine in swimming pools may produce the chemical form.
It is important to prevent spreading conjunctivitis.
If contagious, measures can be taken to prevent spreading conjunctivitis to others.
- Keep your hands away from your eyes;
- Thoroughly wash hands before and after applying eye medications;
- Do not share towels, washcloths, cosmetics or eyedrops with others;
- Seek treatment promptly.
Small children, who may forget these precautions, should be kept away from school, camp and the swimming pool until the condition is cured.
Certain forms of conjunctivitis can develop into a serious condition that may harm your vision. Therefore, it is important to have conjunctivitis diagnosed and treated quickly.
How is infectious conjunctivitis treated?
Infectious conjunctivitis, caused by bacteria, is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops and/or ointment. Other infectious forms, caused by viruses, can’t be treated with antibiotics and must be fought off by your body’s immune system. On occasions antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent secondary bacterial infections from developing.
How are the allergic and chemical forms of conjunctivitis treated?
The ideal treatment for both forms is to remove the cause of the allergy or irritation. For instance, avoid contact with any animal if it causes an allergic reaction. Wear swimming goggles if chlorinated water irritates your eyes. In cases where these measures won’t work, prescription and over-the-counter eye drops are available to help relieve the discomfort.