Conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye”, is an incredibly common condition found in both children and adults. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or swelling of the conjunctiva, the thin clear tissue covering the white part of your eye. Some forms of conjunctivitis are highly contagious, so it is important to speak with your doctor regarding treatment.

What’s going on with your eyes?

Symptoms of conjunctivitis include redness in the white of the eye, excessive tears, thick discharge that often crusts over the eyelashes, an urge to rub the eye, itching, burning, and blurred vision. Depending on the cause, other symptoms can occur. A comprehensive eye examination will need to be conducted by your doctor in order to diagnose conjunctivitis and determine the cause. Your doctor will ask different questions about your health, talk through your symptoms, and conduct an eye exam.

All eye infections aren’t the same…

The most common causes of conjunctivitis are viruses, bacteria, irritants, and allergens.

Viral Conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis can be caused by a number of different viruses like those that cause a common cold. This type of conjunctivitis is highly contagious so it’s important to avoid contact with others and wash your hands frequently.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis can be caused by a number of strains of bacteria and the most common in the United States are Staphylococcus aureusStreptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus species. Like viral conjunctivitis, bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious and care should be taken to avoiding spreading.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is a result of the body’s reaction to any number of allergens, including pollen, dust mites, molds, pet dander, or medicines. This form of conjunctivitis occurs both seasonally, around times when pollen counts are high, and year-round due to indoor allergens. Unlike viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.

Irritants/Foreign bodies

Conjunctivitis may be caused by an irritating substance or foreign body in the eye. This can also occur when contact lenses are worn too long or not cleaned adequately. Similar to allergic conjunctivitis, conjunctivitis caused by an irritant or foreign body is not contagious.

Let’s get rid of it!

Treatment will depend on the type of conjunctivitis you have.  Some cases of conjunctivitis resolve on their own. To help relieve some of the inflammation, use of a cold compress is often beneficial. Additionally, refrain from wearing contact lenses until your conjunctivitis has resolved or your doctor says it’s okay to wear them again.  For more moderate cases of conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, antibiotic eye drops or ointment, allergy medications, or a combination of therapies.