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Conjunctivitis and Pink Eye

What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis or pink eye is the inflamed condition of the conjunctiva - a thin, clear membrane that covers the surface of your eye. It also lines the eyelids. The conjunctiva lubricates the surface of the eye. When irritated, infected or otherwise inflamed, the blood vessels in the conjunctiva swell which makes the eye appear red or pink.

What causes conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis can be caused by a bacterial or viral infections, allergens, environmental irritants, contact lens products or adverse reactions to eye drops and eye ointments.

What is seasonal allergic conjunctivitis?

Pollen, mold and dander irritate the eyes of millions of people every year making seasonal allergic conjunctivitis the most common form of conjunctivitis. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is usually acquired during late spring, summer and early autumn. This condition is also known as hay fever conjunctivitis because many people simultaneously suffer from sneezing and an itchy, runny nose.

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What are the symptoms of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis?

The eyes can have one or more of the following symptoms: redness, tearing, burning, swelling, itchiness or a scratchy sensation.

How is allergic conjunctivitis treated?

If you are sensitive to pollen and mold, the body responds by releasing histamine which initiates tearing, itching, swelling and redness. Antihistamine eye drops reduce, if not eliminate, these symptoms of allergen exposure. If the inflammation is especially severe, an ophthalmologist may prescribe steroid eye drops. Another strategy involves addressing the underlying allergy with months of preseason injections to enhance the immune system as opposed to treating reactive symptoms.

During a flare-up of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, it is best not to wear contact lenses in order to minimize eye irritation.

How can I reduce my chances of acquiring seasonal allergic conjunctivitis?

Avoid pollen rich environments. If you are unable to avoid pollen, mold and dander, take an antihistamine as a preventative. Keep your home closed. Clean or replace your air conditioner filter often. Keep your hands away from your eyes and frequently wash your hands. If you should need to touch your face around your eyes, always use a tissue.

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Is seasonal allergic conjunctivitis contagious?

No. The inflammation of the conjunctiva is due to pollen, mold or dander not bacteria or a virus. When pink eye is caused by a virus or bacteria, this form of conjunctivitis can be highly contagious.

What is the difference between a bacterial infection and a viral infection?

Bacteria can be eradicated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments as well as tablets, capsules and liquids. A virus cannot. Unfortunately, viral conjunctivitis is the most common form of infectious conjunctivitis. This is the same virus that causes the common cold. Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis can last from one to two weeks then disappear. Antibiotics usually take two to three days to clear up bacterial conjunctivitis.

How can I reduce my chances of contracting infectious conjunctivitis?

The smartest behaviors would be to avoid people with pink eyes, keep your hands away from your eyes and wash your hands frequently. If you should need to touch your face around your eyes, always use a tissue. I also recommend replacing eye and cheek cosmetics.

People who wear contact lenses should clean them very carefully. If symptoms of conjunctivitis should occur, stop wearing the lenses until the condition clears.

What if I can’t avoid contact with someone who has pink eye?

Make sure they are practicing good hygiene, especially frequent hand washing.Another essential behavior is not leaving things they’ve touched in places where others might use them. Be aware of items typically touched by a someone with this condition: towels, wash cloths, bedroom linens, telephones, light switches, computer keyboards, remote controls, door handles, multi-serving beverage and condiment containers.

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Do any other eye conditions resemble pink eye?

Inflammation in the eyelids around the lash area or blepharitis is sometimes associated with bloodshot eyes. Blepharitis is a very common condition that can be the result of bacterial inflection, allergies or abnormal fat production in the eyelids.

What are the symptoms of blepharitis?

Redness in the lids and the conjunctiva. Dandruff-like material on the eyelids and lashes. Crusty and sticky eyelashes. Burning or a sensation that a grain of sand is under an eyelid. Any of these symptoms may occur with blepharitis.

How is blepharitis treated?

Topical antibiotic drops or ointment is how most cases are treated. Low dose, steroidal eye medication may be prescribed to reduce swelling and inflammation. Carefully cleansing the eyelid with cotton balls or a washcloth using warm water and mild baby shampoo can reduce a build-up of bacteria and greasy discharge and prevent recurrent blepharitis.

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