Conjunctivitis - Pink Eye

Wednesday, Dec 1, 2021 by Nisha Gupta, MD

We will continue with our series on causes of red eye. This month we will discuss viral conjunctivitis, commonly referred to as pink eye.

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva, the thin tissue covering the sclera, becomes inflamed. This causes the blood vessels to look more prominent causing a red eye.

What are some of the causes?

Most cases of pink eye are caused by the adenovirus, which causes the common cold. Other viruses, bacteria, and allergies can cause conjunctivitis. We will focus on the adenovirus type here. This condition can be extremely contagious and easily spread from person to person as well as from one eye to the other.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms and their severity may vary from person to person. One may experience tearing or discharge, a sandy sensation, or itching. Usually there are no vision changes. Severe cases may cause blurry vision, swollen eyelids and tissues, and marked redness.

How is this treated?

This condition does not require treatment unless it has become very severe or there are complications. Initially, it is most important to wash your hands frequently and try not to touch the eyes. Frequent washing of bed sheets and towels is also recommended. Artificial tears can help the symptoms. It is important to stop wearing contact lenses while the infection is present. This usually resolves on its own within 1-2 weeks. One should see an ophthalmologist if there are worsening symptoms including vision changes, pain, or light sensitivity.

Remember, there are many causes for red eyes. Make sure to see an ophthalmologist for any new symptoms and get treatment if necessary.

Return next month for a discussion on a new topic!

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