Conjunctivitis is the medical term for redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, the transparent mucous membrane that lines the eyelid surface of the eye. Any kind of infection caused by bacteria or virus can cause an inflammation of the conjunctiva which becomes red, swollen and often boggy. This is called an infective conjunctivitis.
In case the inflammation of the conjunctiva is actually due to an allergic or hypersensitive reaction to an allergy causing or irritating agent like dust, smoke, pollen etcetera, and conjunctivitis is said to be allergic.
Causes of Conjunctivitis:
Infective conjunctivitis: Viruses like adenovirus, herpes virus etc Bacteria like Staphylococcus, Hemophilus etc
Allergic conjunctivitis: Irritants like Dust, smoke, chemical fumes, pollutants
Hypersensitivity to pollen, fibers etc.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis:
Redness of the conjunctiva, or “pink eye”
Increased tearing and watering
Green or white (mucopurulent) discharge from eyes in case of infection; “ropy” colorless discharge in case of allergic conjunctivitis
Burning and sore eyes, foreign body sensation
Sensitivity to light
Blurred Vision which may or may not always be there
A viral conjunctivitis may be accompanied by a sore throat or upper respiratory infection
An allergic conjunctivitis may be accompanied by symptoms of hay fever like sneezing etcetera
Treatment and Prevention of Conjunctivitis:
The treatment of viral conjunctivitis is mainly supportive, so that the patient is comfortable. The disease usually runs its course in a week or two, and does not require antibiotics. Your doctor will usually give you non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops, as well as lubricating eye drops.
In case you have a bacterial infection, or if your doctor thinks you may be at risk of a super added infection, your doctor will also prescribe antibiotic drops in addition to the above mentioned eye drops.
If the conjunctivitis is allergic in nature, your doctor will ask you to use anti allergic eye drops, in addition to anti-inflammatory eye drops and tear supplements.
You may be asked to use steroid eye drops in case of severe conjunctivitis. Make sure you strictly follow the recommended dose, that is, the number of times it must be used, and only for the number of days prescribed.
In all cases, your doctor will advise you to ensure meticulous hand and eye hygiene.
You must wash your hands before and after touching your face and eyes.
Avoid rubbing your eyes.
Do not self-medicate, or go to a chemist for medication. Do not use steroid eyedrops unless prescribed by an ophthalmologist.
Seek medical help in case of any pink or red eye because it may be sign of a potentially vision threatening disease, especially if the irritation persists or increases, is accompanied by decrease in vision or any eye swelling.
Do not wear contact lenses unless allowed specifically by your doctor. Do not discard your lenses or the lens case with solution, as your doctor may need them to decide the bacteria infecting your eyes in rare cases.
Do not use eye makeup during the infection.
In order to prevent contacting an infection you must do the following:
Do not share cosmetics like mascara, kajal and eyeliner.
Do not share towels or handkerchief for cleaning your eyes.
Do not share eye drops. Do not use eye drops past their date of expiry, and any eye drops that were opened more than a month ago.
If you wear contact lenses, take proper precautions and make sure that you follow your doctor’s instructions about duration of contact lens wear, contact lens solution and change in lenses.
Stay away from dust and chemical fumes. On days when there is a pollution warning, try and spend as much time indoors as possible. Use protective glasses when you step out in case you are prone to allergies.
You may discuss anti-allergy prophylaxis with your eye doctor if you are prone to seasonal allergies to prevent a bout of conjunctivitis. This is especially true for pollen allergies.
Do not use over the counter medications from chemists unless they are only lubricating drops. Steroid drops are freely available from chemists in India and make you feel better immediately but can have catastrophic side effects. Be wary of self-medication always, and also use ayurvedic eye drops also under strict supervision from a certified ayurvedic practitioner, if you must.