Dealing with Conjunctivitis

What is Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis or pinkeye is an inflammation of the outermost protective member called conjunctiva which covers the whites of the eyes as well as the inner linings of the eyelids.  The more common causes are viral and bacterial infections which make the ailment contagious through person-to-person contact or through contact with contaminated objects.  The infection often starts with one eye but can easily spread to the other eye.

Signs of Conjunctivitis

Symptoms commonly found in persons with conjunctivitis include a swollen eyelids on the affected eye, hyperaemia or reddening of the whites in the eye or hyperaemia, chemosis or irritation that comes with pain, burning and itching sensation, and epiphora or watering where watery discharge or tears may come with pus. In some cases, there’s also swelling of the lymph nodes that can be felt in front of the ears. Some blurring and hypersensitivity to light can be experienced but there’s no damage to the eye’s cornea or pupil.

Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are contagious. They easily pass on contact with an infected person or through using contaminated objects, clothes, waters or foods.

Management of Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis commonly happen during late fall and early spring and usually attends common colds and upper respiratory tract inflections like sore throat and runny nose. Just like common colds, the condition resolves in a few days. 65% of cases subside within 2-5 days even without treatment. 

Pinkeye or conjunctivitis generally to not require hospitalization except in rare cases  of accidental chemical burns which are treated as medical emergencies that could lead to intraocular damage or severe scarring if not treated immediately. Otherwise, just like common colds, all it takes is a short visit to the doctor and a home medication regimen that simply follows your doctor’s orders that may include prescription antibiotics.

  • Just like common colds caused by virus, viral conjunctivitis has no known cure and the most that you can do is to relieve the symptoms.  The most common relief is achieved though warm compress applied to the eyes. Non-prescriptive artificial tears or eyedrops can also provide relief.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis also resolves without any treatment but symptomatic relief can be had with antibiotic ointment or eyedrops if no improvement happens within 3-4 days.  The condition generally subsides in less than 5 days without antibiotics
  • Allergy-triggered conjunctivitis are best managed with cool or cold water splashed over the face and eyes with head tilted down.  The action can constrict blood capiliaries in the eyes and wash out any chemical residue that may have caused the allergy.  Artificial tears or eyedrops can sometimes provide relief in mild cases but in more server cases, the application of antihistamines or non-steroidal anti—inflammatory ointment as prescribed by your doctor has more efficacies.  Topical steroid drops can relieve persistent allergic conjunctivitis.
  • Conjunctivitis caused by accidental chemical splashes is best treated with irrigating the eyes with Ringer’s lactate of saline solution.  Chemical burns from alkali-based chemicals are medical emergencies and should prompt an immediate visit to your nearest clinic or hospital. 
  • You should never wear your contacts when suffering conjunctivitis. You should get guidance from a healthcare practitioner who you can safely resume wearing your contacts.  Get your contacts disinfected as they could have been contaminated and have caused the infection to begin with.
  • A swollen eye during the period may encourage you to wear eye make-up when going out, but don’t.  Cosmetics around the eyes should be avoided if you still have symptoms of conjunctivitis.  A sunglass to cover it up is better.
  • Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are highly contagious and members of your family can easily catch one.  If you are applying ointments to a child or family member, be sure to disinfect and cleanse your hands thoroughly after each session. Refrain from sharing anything with the affected member and it may be good idea to isolate him or her from the rest of the family for the period.  Handle his or her laundry separately and disinfect surfaces, sinks, doorknobs, countertops, etc to prevent contamination.
  • If you plan on traveling overseas, you may not be allowed to enter some countries, or even allowed to enter some public places where people concentration is high to avoid unnecessary spread of the infection.