Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane, which lines the lids and covers the eyeball. Frequently known as “pink eye,” it is usually due to a bacterial or viral infection like a common cold. Conjunctivitis may also be caused by irritation from wind, dust, smoke, allergies, or exposure to intense light, such as sun lamps.
What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis?
In most cases symptoms include redness, itching or burning of the eyelids, and watery or pus like discharge. Eyelids are often swollen with matting of the eyelashes upon awakening. The infection begins in one eye and then may also affect the other eye in 2 to 5 days.
Bacterial and viral forms of conjunctivitis are contagious, so take precautions to prevent its spread. Use your own towel only; wash your hands frequently with antiseptic soap. Do not touch your eyes. Gently wipe the discharge from the eye with disposable tissues.
Do not use any kind of eye makeup since it is an excellent culture medium for bacteria. Replace makeup after episode of conjunctivitis to prevent a recurrence.
In bacterial conjunctivitis, warm compress application may be helpful.
Cold compresses may be useful for allergic reactions.
If you’re a contact lens user, cleanse your contacts thoroughly as per lens instructions. DO NOT use contacts until infection is cleared. Permanent damage may occur to the lens of the eye if drops are used at the same time as contact use. Glasses should be worn during treatment course and disposal lenses need to be discarded.
In bacterial conjunctivitis, prescribed antibiotics must be continued for a period of 4-7 days. Instill the drops in the outer aspect of the lower eyelid. Eye secretions are contagious for 24 to 48 hours after therapy begins.
Symptomatic treatment such as warm or cold compresses and over (OTC) eye drops can be used in certain viral infections, however, these infections are usually self-limiting. Follow up: Return to the office in 48 hours, if no improvement. If there is pain in the eye itself or if there are any visual changes, contact South Coast Medical Group OC sooner.