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Conjunctivitis Conjunctivitis is a common and often very contagious condition more commonly referred to as pink eye. Conjunctivitis often involves inflammation and swelling of the conjunctiva or the clear membrane covering the eye and lining the inner eyelids. Very common among young children particularly those in school or daycare, conjunctivitis typically pose no real threat to the patient's vision or wellness.

Causes and Risk Factors
There are multiple causes and risk factors for conjunctivitis. Some of the more common causes of conjunctivitis include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Viral contamination
  • Bacterial contamination
  • Exposure to irritants or chemical pollutants
Infectious conjunctivitis typically results from bacterial or viral contamination. While bacterial conjunctivitis may be treated with certain antibiotics, there is no traditional treatment for viral conjunctivitis. Multiple strains of bacteria are responsible for bacterial conjunctivitis. These include haemophilus influenzae and staphylococcus aureus.

Viral conjunctivitis is a common condition affecting children from the time of birth through their adult years. Viruses can enter the eye in many ways, resulting from the common cold or contagion with the flu. Some patients may develop a more serious form of viral conjunctivitis associated with a herpes infection. In this case prompt medical attention is necessary to prevent permanent damage to the eye or vision.

In rare circumstances patients exposed to certain parasites or fungal infections are also more at risk for developing conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is by far the most common form of conjunctivitis particularly among adults and children with hay fever. Many will experience conjunctivitis at routine intervals of the year, especially during the fall and spring when pollens tend to circulate more freely throughout the air. Some patients with allergic conjunctivitis are more susceptible to animal dander.

Signs and Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
One of the more commonly reported signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis include discomfort and pain in the eye, accompanied by redness or swelling of the eyelid, hence the name "pinkeye." Patients may experience reddening of the inner and outer eyelid or may experience swollen eyelids. Some patients may report increased sensitivity to light and other irritants including the wind.

Many patients with conjunctivitis will have discharge from the eyes that may be clear, white, green or yellow in color. Yellow or green discharge from the eye may suggest an infection and may require antibiotics or other forms of aggressive treatment.

Conjunctivitis can spread from person to person or from eye to eye. Simply touching one eye than the other can spread viral conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is a non-contagious conditions. Typically children exposed to bacterial conjunctivitis will have a two to four day window before symptoms appear.

Treatment and Prevention
The best treatment for conjunctivitis is prevention. You can prevent an infection by washing your hands regularly and avoiding touching the eyes or face unnecessarily. If infected you should throw out any cosmetics or other eye products that may result in re-contamination.

Use of an air filter may help alleviate symptoms in patients with viral conjunctivitis. Some cases may require treatment with antibiotic ointment, including cases of bacterial conjunctivitis. Screening for sexually transmitted diseases is highly recommended for women who are pregnant or plan to be pregnant as viral conjunctivitis may be spread through some sexually transmitted diseases. If a woman for example has an active herpes infection during or around the time of delivery, her doctor may recommend a cesarean to avoid spreading the virus to her child.

Fortunately conjunctivitis more often than not is a minor condition that will clear up on its own in one to two weeks. If you have any of the signs or symptoms of conjunctivitis, be sure to consult with your health care provider to determine the cause and select an appropriate treatment.

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