Conjunctivitis can be either an irritation or an infection of the membrane that covers the white of the eye and the inside lining of the eyelid. This part of the eye is called the conjunctiva. The condition has become commonly known as "pink eye" due to the significant blood vessel inflammation that can occur, but because there are many possible causes, an eye doctor will diagnose the specific type and help you decide on the best treatment options.
Allergies and other irritants like air pollution, eye make up, and dry or ill-fitting contact lenses cause irritation conjunctivitis. Infection conjunctivitis has two categories: viral and bacterial. The viral type usually accompanies a cold, fever, sore throat, or flu and is characterized by eye redness and a watery discharge. The bacterial type presents with eye redness, a mucous like discharge, and is usually caused by a staph or strep bacteria.
Some bacterial and viral pinkeye can easily be passed between people, and most people will experience this at some point in their life. It is especially common for children to catch pinkeye. The symptoms are generally mild and do not pose a serious threat to eye health. Generally eyes are clear within a few days and there is little discomfort. Conjunctivitis in newborns should be addressed by a doctor right away to help ensure no vision loss occurs because eye irritation in children that young can be a sign of other problems, or interfere with healthy development.
Conjunctivitis is treated differently depending on the cause. Most cases can be successfully treated with antibiotics, eye drops, or ointments. Your doctor will help make suggestions on what options can best treat your symptoms and will give you instructions for how to alleviate discomfort.
Optometrists are trained and equipped to make this diagnosis and others, including common eye health problems and less common conditions. In some cases, conjunctivitis can progress to a more serious eye condition or cause vision damage, so professional evaluation is important. Don't hesitate to call us and come see the doctor if you have any concerns about your vision.