Conjunctivitis is more commonly known as "pink eye". Conjunctivitis is referred to as an inflammation or irritation on the membrane (called the conjunctiva) covering the eye and the inner surface of the eyelid. There are two major forms of conjunctivitis: Infectious-- which is contagious and usually causes by bacteria or viruses, or noninfectious-- which is caused by allergies, chemical reactions, other inflammatory diseases or trauma. It can be found in people of all ages, but is most common in younger children. Before, silver nitrate drops were given to infants, conjunctivitis was the main cause of infant blindness. Today, conjunctivitis is not considered a serious illness, especially if proper treatment and precautions are taken. Conjunctivitis can last up to 10 days, but with medication, symptoms should be gone in 3 or 4 days.
There are many causes for conjunctivitis. Some causes are better discussed in the "Different Types of Conjunctivitis" section. One major causes is through contact with infected individuals. In certain forms, conjunctivitis is extremely contagious, and the illness can be contracted by touching something Different Types of Conjunctivitis Caused by Bacteria: Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection of the conjunctiva. Usually, the eye will feel irritated, itchy and burning. There will also usually be a gooey discharge that appears crusty after sleep. This type of conjunctivitis can be treated with prescribed antibiotics in the form of drops or ointments. Caused by Viruses: Viral conjunctivitis usually occurs after one has had a previous viral infection such as a cold. Certain types of viral conjunctivitis are very contagious. They have the same symptoms as bacterial conjunctivitis but viral forms will not react to medication and typically take longer to heal. Caused by Allergy: Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by normal allergic reactions. it results in itching eyes accompanied by redness. Most antihistamines will affect this form. Caused by Chemicals: Chemical conjunctivitis results when irritation substances enter the eye. Treatment could mean flushing out the area with water, visiting a poison control center to remove the substance.
Symptoms are usually the same for all types of conjunctivitis. The area around and inside the eye become red and swollen. Irritation, itching, and scratching also occur. In many cases, conjunctivitis causes a gooey or pus-like discharge that is white or yellow in color. It is this discharge that is extremely contagious. Another symptom is that the eye may feel crusty.
In extreme cases of conjunctivitis, a diagnosis by a clinician is a good idea. A culture may be taken to determine the presence of bacteria, and a prescription for treatment can be given.
Conjunctivitis is mostly a harmless illness, if proper precautions are taken. Blurred vision may result from the fluid being discharged, but it is only temporary. Conjunctivitis is much more serious in infants, where, if treatment is not given, permanent damage to the eye or sight can occur. Persistent or reoccurring conjunctivitis may be caused by an underlying illness in the body such as rheumatic diseases. Another complication could be subconjunctival hemorrhage which sounds much harsher than it really is. It simply means the hemorrhage of blood vessels in the eye that will cause redness.
Most causes of conjunctivitis can be treated by antibiotics. They may be taken as drops, ointments, and in more severe cases, oral medication (pills). With treatment, conjunctivitis usually lasts no more than a few days. One of the most important treatments is keeping the eye area clean, and applying cold compressed to reduce swelling and redness. Other special precautions should be taken to reduce the risk of infecting others. When around someone with conjunctivitis, one should wash their hand regularly and avoid touching their eyes. One should also be careful not to use the same products (towels, pillows, makeup) that were used by an infected person. There steps should also be taken to prevent recontamination.
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