Conjunctivitis

Disease Name

Conjunctivitis, “pink eye”, “red eye”. These terms are non-specific and can indicate any cause of conjunctival inflammation. The most common causes are bacterial, viral and allergic.

Definition

Conjunctival inflammation caused by a variety of causes. 

Symptoms

Ocular redness, foreign body sensation, watery discharge (more likely viral or allergic), mucoid or purulent discharge (more likely bacterial), itching (more likely allergic) Bacterial conjunctivitis is often but not always in one eye. Viral conjunctivitis usually begins in one eye and usually goes to the other eye within few days. Allergic conjunctivitis usually involves both eyes.

Causes

The most common causes are bacterial, viral and allergic.

Risk Factors

Viral: Viral illness, contact with someone with a viral illness or a red eye.

Allergic: Systemic allergies, new facial cream, certain eye drops.

Complications

Conjunctivitis can rarely cause a corneal abrasion, conjunctival and/or corneal scarring and decreased vision.

Tests and Diagnosis

Bacterial: A conjunctival swab culture can be obtained and sent to the lab-the results can take a few days.

Viral: a rapid in-office test is available to test for adenovirus, the most common cause of viral conjunctivitis.

Treatment

Bacterial: Broad spectrum antibiotic drops or ointment.

Adenoviral: Artificial tears and cool compresses. Patients with adenoviral conjunctivitis should be cautioned that is extremely contagious and they should avoid close contact with others until the eyes are not longer red and tearing.

Allergic: Cooled artificial tears, anti-histamine/mast cell stabilizer drops.

Prevention

Bacterial and Viral: Frequent hand washing and not sharing towels, tissues with those with a red eye.