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Definition of Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis – an inflammation of the conjunctiva, or mucous tissue that lines the inside of the eyelids.
There are many causes for conjunctivitis, commonly called pink eye, including infection (bacterial, viral, or fungal) and contact contamination such as due to pollen or substances in the air or on the fingers that irritate the tissues.
Infectious conjunctivitis is highly contagious and very common, especially in children.
- Red, swollen conjunctiva and sclera (inner eyelids and the “white” of the eye)
- Itchy or scratchy sensation
- Thick, yellowish discharge that crusts
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
The doctor can usually diagnose conjunctivitis from its appearance. Typical treatment is application of an antibiotic medication in ophthalmic preparation (drops or ointment).
Most conjunctivitis dramatically improves with 48 hours of initiating treatment, though symptoms may resolve gradually over 10 to 14 days, and does not require further medical attention.
The doctor may culture the discharge when there is reason to suspect chlamydia or gonnorhea is the cause, or when symptoms do not improve with treatment.
Warm, moist compresses help relieve discomfort and clear away the discharge. Frequent hand washing helps prevent spreading the infection.
Untreated conjunctivitis, particularly when chlamydia or gonorrhea is the infectious agent, can cause permanent damage to the cornea, which results in visual impairment or blindness.