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Conjunctivitis: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Loves to share her views on issues that everybody should be aware of.

WebMD describe Conjunctivitis as an inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva which is a liquid on the surface of the eye, acts as a defensive measure to protect the eye surface. It has two jobs:

  1. Stop any foreign bodies like dust from entering the eye.
  2. Keep the front of the eye and the inside of the eye moist and lubricated which allows the eye to move.

You can get conjunctivitis from bacteria, a virus, and an allergy or from an irritant.

The time it takes to treat conjunctivitis will vary depending on what caused the initial infection. If you don't see an improvement after a number of days or weeks, it would be best to get advice from your pharmacists or doctor.

Different Types of Conjunctivitis

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention there are four ways to contact conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is contacted from viruses and you will get it from people who already have conjunctivitis/ this is the most common cause of conjunctivitis in people. Viral conjunctivitis usually lasts 1 to 3 weeks.

Bacterial conjunctivitis occurs when something gets into the conjunctiva membrane of the eye. People do not get conjunctivitis by this method very often. If you are always touching your eyes with dirty hands or putting things close to or in your eye that are out of date, this can increase your chances of getting it. It usually clears up in in 7 to 14 days.

Other factors that can lead to this form of conjunctivitis are:

  • Chronic bacterial conjunctivitis is a long term condition that needs medical attention.
  • Hyper-acute bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by gonorrhoea.
  • Chlamydia conjunctivitis passes on to babies whom have a mother that has chlamydia.
  • Gonococcal conjunctivitis occurs in new-born babies because of meningitis or because of bacteria found in the blood.

Allergic conjunctivitisis caused by things that you come into contact with in your environment on a day to day basis. Culprits like pollen, dust mites, mould, and animal's dander can impact many people in different ways and can actually cause some people to get bouts of conjunctivitis quite frequently. Sometimes referred to as seasonal or situational conjunctivitis, this type of conjunctivitis is liable to clear up in a few days but there is the chance that it will keep coming back time and time again.

Irritants conjunctivitis is caused by your environment. If things get into your eye they can cause irritation which then leads to conjunctivitis. Chemical, fragments of wood or metal, chlorine from swimming and pollution are factors that can lead to this type of conjunctivitis. Treatment to help clear it up would require you to look at what is the main factor behind the irritation causing conjunctivitis and then looks at ways to prevent it from happening again.

Diagram of the Eye

When bacteria enters the eye through the conjunctiva, this will lead to bacterial conjunctivitis..

When bacteria enters the eye through the conjunctiva, this will lead to bacterial conjunctivitis..

NCBI published a report 'Conjunctivitis: A Systematic Review of Diagnosis and Treatment' which found that bacterial conjunctivitis is the second most common form of conjunctivitis after viral conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis takes a few hours to progress.

Conjunctivitis takes a few hours to progress.

How you contact Conjunctivitis

Viral Conjunctivitis

There are two types of viruses, the adenovirus and the enterovirus that are spread through direct contact with an infected person.

Adenovirus is a mild viruses and present symptoms similar to that of the common cold and is spread by close contact with a contaminated person. If you have this type of virus you might experience a fever, bronchitis or pink eye.

Enteroviruses also presents symptoms similar to a common cold and are found in your respiratory system and spread through saliva and nasal mucus. The virus is spread through direct contact.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

You can pick up bacterial conjunctivitis from other people or from touching dirty surfaces with your hands. Once your eye is infected, the symptoms can present themselves in a matter of hours starting with a sore eye that turns pink which later leads conjunctivitis where you start to see discharge and redness in your eye.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

According to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergens are the main cause of allergic conjunctivitis. Pollen, dust mites, smoke and chemicals are all culprits behind allergic conjunctivitis.

Irritant Conjunctivitis

This could be caused by anything that gets into your eye and irritates it. If you work in an industry where you handle chemicals, are exposed to dirt and dust or you work in an environment where you cut metal or wood, then wearing eye goggles is probably a legal requirement. But sometimes accidents happens because of other people or maybe your own carelessness and flying fragments can get into your eyes and irritate them.

Diagnosing Conjunctivitis

The initial symptoms start with a burning sensation in your eye that later develops into a stinging and throbbing sensation. Your eye might also feel a little hot within the eye socket.

You will also experience a discharge of liquid from within the eye which you will have to wipe away. Sometimes applying a cool damp cloth on to the infected eye can help alleviate the hot feeling coming from the eye. Once some form of treatment is sought, the discharge will clear up.

Not only does conjunctivitis look ugly but it is also extremely irritating and very uncomfortable. Your eyelid is swollen and your eye looks like it is protruding from the eye socket.

Conjunctivitis is a painful condition especially if left untreated.

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis

Usually it presents itself in one eye but if it is left untreated it will spread to the other eye. There are some very obvious symptoms which are a large indicator that you are suffering from conjunctivitis.

  1. You eyelid will become sore and look inflamed.
  2. Due to this inflammation your eyelid will look droopy.
  3. You might experience a throbbing sensation behind your infected eye. (This might give you a headache which will lead to pain in the centre between your eyes and also along the side of your infected eye).
  4. The tiny veins in your eyeball will become more visible due to inflammation. (This happens first and you might just think you have eye strain).
  5. The white of your eye will then turn a very pale pink or red.
  6. You will notice some discharge from the infected eye which initially will be mild but later on it will get progressively worse. This discharge could be thin, thick, slimy or sticky and can be clear or pale in colour. You will need to wipe away the discharge so it doesn't build up and become crusty and sticky, especially if conjunctivitis has developed over night.
  7. The sensation you feel in your eye might lead you to think that the eye is sore and swollen because the inside of the eye will feel warm and sore and you might feel some pressure behind your eye.
  8. Conjunctivitis symptoms develop over a number of hours. Prior to presenting itself, you might experience some mild discomfort in your eye which you might think is due to you rubbing your eye too roughly or if you might blame your eye makeup remover.

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What causes bacterial conjunctivitis?
    • Bacteria
    • Sun
    • Smoke
  2. Is bacterial conjunctivitis contagious?
    • No
    • Yes
    • Don't know
  3. Do you need to go to the doctor if you have bacterial conjunctivitis?
    • Maybe after a few days
    • Yes, if over the counter treatment doesn't clear it up after a few days
    • No
  4. What homemade remedy is recommended by ophthalmologist to help with conjunctivitis?
    • Warm & cold compress
    • Tissue
    • Rice water
  5. What is the main cause behind a reoccurances of conjunctivitis?
    • Allergies
    • Bacterial
    • Viral

Answer Key

  1. Bacteria
  2. Yes
  3. Yes, if over the counter treatment doesn't clear it up after a few days
  4. Warm & cold compress
  5. Allergies

Treating Conjunctivitis

Some people have their own homemade remedies that they use to clear up conjunctivitis. If you are unsure about your condition and the type of treatment you should follow then visit your pharmacy or your doctor to get an actual diagnosis.

There are a variety of over the counter products like drops, sprays and gels you can get in your pharmacy to help clear up conjunctivitis especially in cases where it is bacterial or viral.

If you suspect you have bacterial conjunctivitis, it is important that you get it diagnosed and treated as soon as possible with an eye medication to help clear up the infection.

If you have a recurrences of conjunctivitis over a period of time, then it is likely due to allergies and not viral or bacterial conjunctivitis.

Practise Good Hygiene.

Once you know that you actually have conjunctivitis, you need to practise good hygiene.

  • Don't use the same towels as anyone else in your home.
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Wash any washcloths that you have used to clean the discharge from your eye.
  • Don't wear your contact lenses.
  • Don't wear any eye makeup and dump any eye makeup you used prior to getting conjunctivitis to prevent it recurring.

Some Common Things That Could Cause Conjunctivitis

Contact Lenses

  • If you wear contact lenses, it might be the actual lenses, the wash for your lenses, the container you store your lenses in or the cleaning method you use for your hands that is causing an infection.
  • If you wear daily or monthly contact lenses, you might have a bad batch of lenses or be sensitive to the material or liquid within the pouch used by that brand of lens manufacturer.

Eye Makeup

  • Eye makeup products like mascara and eye-shadow should be replaced every year.
  • Do not allow other people to use either of these eye products as they can contaminate your makeup. Dump old eye makeup which is over a year old.
  • Put tissue under your eyelid when applying eye shadow to avoid fallout entering your eyes after your contact lenses is inserted.
  • Avoid poking the mascara wand into your eye when applying to your eyelashes.

Eye Brushes

  • Wash your makeup brushes and sponges once a week.
  • A build-up of product on these items and can lead to the introduction of bacteria.
  • Have two eye makeup brushes so you can alternate each week after washing one.

Touching Your Eyes

  • If your eyes start getting itchy or start watering, don't touch them with your fingers. Instead get Kleenex or a damp washcloth and use this to gently clean the area that is irritating you.

Conclusion

Conjunctivitis is something you can take measure to avoid getting. But sometimes you can get unlucky and as much as you try to avoid getting it, sometimes you will.

Treat the condition as soon as you can and if it doesn't start clearing up with OTC treatment or your homemade remedy then you might need to get something stronger to help clear it up.

Rubbing or wiping your eyes or face with hands you haven't washed is one sure way to get conjunctivitis. Many surfaces contain some forms of bacteria like door handles, computer keyboards and phones and many of them have never been wiped or cleaned with a cloth. That is why it is important to always use hand wipes or antibacterial hand gel before touching your eyes or face.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Sp Greaney

Comments

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on October 06, 2020:

@Ankita B, Thank you for your feedback.

Ankita B on October 05, 2020:

This was an informative read about conjunctivitis. Great article and well structured.

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on October 05, 2020:

@ Adrienne Farricelli, it's just a habit you need to try to break.

Adrienne Farricelli on October 01, 2020:

I have dealt with too many eye issues from allergies. It's really challenging to resist the urge to rub them.

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on June 22, 2019:

@Chitrangada Sharan, thank you. :) its one of those things we all get at some point or another.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 20, 2019:

An important article about conjunctivitis. You have made some important points and shared some useful information for everyone.

Thanks for sharing this well written and illustrated article.

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