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Conjunctivitis: Types and Treatments

Conjunctivitis, colloquially called pink eye, is a frequently seen eye infection, particularly when it comes to children. This condition can be caused by bacteria, viruses or even hypersensitivity to chlorine in swimming pools, pollen, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other irritants, which touch the eyes. Certain kinds of conjunctivitis can be fairly communicable and quickly spread in school and in the home or office.

This infection develops when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of your eye, gets inflamed. A sign that you have the infection is if you notice itching, discharge, redness or swollen eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three main sub-types: bacterial, allergic and viral conjunctivitis.

The viral manifestation is often a result of the same type of viruses that are the source of the recognizable red and watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The uncomfortable symptoms of the viral form of conjunctivitis will usually last from seven to fourteen days and then will clear up on their own. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. The viral form of conjunctivitis is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meanwhile practice excellent hygiene, wipe away eye discharge and try to avoid sharing pillowcases or towels. Children who have viral conjunctivitis will need to stay home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a common bacterial infection that enters the eye typically from an external object touching the eye that carries the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This form of infection is most often treated with antibiotic cream or drops. Most often you should see an improvement within three or four days of treatment, but be sure to adhere to the complete prescription dosage to stop the infection from coming back.

Conjunctivitis due to allergies is not infectious or contagious. It usually occurs among those who already have seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The allergic symptoms in the eyes may be just a small part of their overall allergic reaction. The first step in relieving allergic conjunctivitis is to remove or avoid the irritant, when applicable. To ease discomfort, try artificial tears or compresses. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the pink eye persists for a long time, steroid eye drops could be used.

With any form conjunctivitis, making sure to maintain sanitary habits is the best way to keep it from getting worse. Clean your hands thoroughly and often and don't touch your eyes with your hands.

Conjunctivitis should always be examined by a qualified optometrist in order to identify the type and proper course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Remember the earlier you start treatment, the less chance you have of spreading pink eye to others or prolonging your discomfort.