Conjunctivitis, A.K.A.: Pink Eye

Pinkeye is medically known as conjunctivitis.  Although most people think of an infection, such as a virus or bacteria, as the cause, it can also be triggered by allergies.  Symptoms usually include burning, itching and discharge. Often it is difficult to tell what is causing the pinkeye, and evaluation by a physician is frequently necessary to arrive at the diagnosis and start the appropriate treatment.  Conjunctivitis is not to be confused with a corneal abrasion, which results from debris being caught in the eye.  For  more information, you may see my article entitled Corneal Abrasion .

Infectious conjunctivitis most commonly is found in children, especially those in daycare, nurseries and elementary school.  It is spread by direct contact and is often accompanied by cold symptoms.  Bacterial conjunctivitis usually causes profuse eye purulence (see photo), which can be so thick that it crusts one or both of a child’s shut.  Oral or antibiotic eye drops effectively treat this infection.  Viral conjunctivitis causes a more watery discharge, but can often be difficult to differentiate from the bacterial type.  Antibiotics do not speed healing, and the infection usually clears on its own within 7-10 days.  Children should not go back to daycare or school until the redness and discharge of the eye or eyes has completely cleared.

Allergic conjunctivitis usually causes significant eye itching and watering, and is frequently accompanied by runny nose and sneezing.  Both eyes are generally involved.  It can be caused by a number of different allergens, including pollens, dust, mold, animal dander, smoke and perfumes.  On examination, the eye “sac” appears cobble-stoned in appearance.  Treatment includes topical over the counter and prescription eye drops, as well as oral antihistamines.  Cool compresses placed over the affected eyes when closed can also provide dramatic relief.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and aren’t sure which form of conjunctivitis you may have, give us a call at 208-772-5204 to set up an appointment.  If you aren’t a member of our practice and would like to find out more, click here to read more about our practice, or here to sign up for our monthly newsletter.

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