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Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye)


What is infectious conjunctivitis?

Acute infectious conjunctivitis (“pink eye”) is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the clear membrane that lines the inside of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye).  It is the most common and contagious ocular infection in the United States and throughout the world. Pink eye  is usually caused by the following types of human adenovirus:

Viral conjunctivitis, which is the most common cause of infectious conjunctivitis both overall and in the adult population. It is more prevalent in the summer. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious for up to two weeks following the onset of symptoms. It can be spread by finger contact such as touching the affected eye and then the other eye, or by allowing other people to use your personal items such as pillows, wash cloths, towels, and make-up items. If you wear contacts, you need to remove and discard them and wear glasses until the infection clears up.

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis, which is the second most common cause and is responsible for the majority (50%-75%) of cases in children. It occurs more frequently from December through April.

What are the symptoms of pink eye?Patients with pink eye will experience dilation of the conjunctival vessels resulting in redness ansd swelling of the conjunctiva, usually accompanied by discharge. Other symptoms of pink eye include itchiness, a foreign body sensation, tearing, sensitivity to light, and a thick discharge that crusts over the eyelashes at night, making opening the eyes in the morning difficult.

How is conjunctivitis treated?

Treatment for pink eye depends on whether the infection is viral or bacterial. If it’s viral, the conjunctivitis will usually clear up on its own within a week. Your physician may recommend several treatments to relieve any discomfort to your eyes. These include applying warm or cold compresses several times daily, cleaning your eyelids with a wet cloth, and artificial tears. If the conjunctivitis is severe, topical steroids may be added. If the conjunctivitis is bacterial, your eye professional will prescribe antibiotic eye drops, ointments or pills. These will usually be taken multiple times each day over the course of a week.

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