Steps to Avoid Conjunctivitis:
Your first line of defense is to avoid the cause of conjunctivitis. Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis spread easily to others.
Follow these tips to avoid spreading conjunctivitis or re-infecting yourself:
1. Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
2. Do not share wash cloths, towels or pillowcases with anyone else, and wash these items after each use.
3. Do not share eye drops or cosmetics such as eyeliner, eye shadow or mascara.
Replace them after you’re healed, to avoid re-infection.
4. Disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs and counters with diluted bleach solution.
5. Do not swim (some bacteria can be spread in the water)
6. Avoid touching your face
7. Wash your hands frequently
8. Do not share towels or washcloths
9. Do not use handkerchiefs; use disposable tissues
10. Avoid shaking hands
The white of the eye (sclera) is covered by a thin, filmy membrane called the conjunctiva which produces mucus to coat and lubricate the surface of the eye. It normally has fine blood vessels within it, which can be seen upon close inspection.
When the conjunctiva becomes irritated or inflamed, the blood vessels that supply it enlarge and become much more prominent, and the eye turns pink, thus, the common name “pink eye.”
Pink eye can refer to all forms of conjunctivitis. The three most common types of conjunctivitis are: viral, allergic, and bacterial. Each requires different treatments.
Types, Causes and Symptoms
The most obvious symptom of conjunctivitis is, of course, a “pink” eye. The pink color is caused by an inflammation. The eye continuously hurts and/or itches and the lid may swell. There may be discharge from the eye.
Viral Pink Eye – Highly Contagious:
The leading cause of a pink eye is virus infection. Viral pink eye is usually associated with a watery discharge and is frequently accompanied with viral “cold-like” symptoms including upper respiratory tract infection, cold, or sore throat. The eyelid may be swollen and itch. This type of conjunctivitis usually begins with one eye and spreads easily to the other. Sometimes looking at bright lights is painful. While viral pink eye may not require an antibiotic, this form of pink eye can be associated with infection of the cornea. This infection must be correctly diagnosed and treated by your ophthalmologist.
Allergic Pink Eye – Generally Not Contagious:
Allergic pink eye is usually accompanied by intense itching, tearing, and swollen eyelids. It usually affects both eyes at the same time. Causes include seasonal pollens, animal dander, and dust that accompany other typical “allergy” symptoms such as sneezing, itchy nose, or scratchy throat. Cold moist wash clothes applied to the eyes and over-the-counter decongestant eye drops can provide welcome relief. Your doctor may prescribe stronger medications if these remedies are not adequate. Allergic conjunctivitis may also be caused by intolerance to substances such as cosmetics, perfume, pesticides, ordrugs.
Bacterial Pink Eye – Highly Contagious:
The bacteria that most commonly causeinfectious pink eye are staphylococci, pneumococci, and streptococci. The severity of the infection depends upon the type of bacteria involved. Symptoms may include eye pain, tearing, irritation and/or a gritty feeling, swelling, pink or redness, and a
moderate to large amount of stringy discharge that is usually yellow or greenish in color. The discharge commonly accumulates while sleeping and patients wake up withtheir “eyes stuck shut.”
Bacterial conjunctivitis responds to repeated warm wash cloths applied to the eyes and antibiotic eye drops or ointment prescribed by your ophthalmologist. If you suspect bacterial conjunctivitis/pink eye, it is very important to see your ophthalmologist immediately for several reasons. First, if the cause is a bacterial infection, an antibiotic will be needed to help your infection-fighting immune system kill this infection. Secondly, if you are experiencing other symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, ear ache, etc., there is a good chance that these symptoms are caused by the same bacteria and an oral antibiotic may be needed to reach these germs along with antibiotic drops or ointment for the eyes. Finally, your doctor will want to exclude the possibility that the infection has spread to areas where the symptoms may not yet be recognizable.
Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC) –
Not Contagious: Essentially, this condition is exclusive to contact lens wearers. GPC typically affects both eyes and causes contact lens intolerance, itching, a heavy discharge, and tearing. The “giant papillary” part of the condition refers to the clinical appearance of very large bumps or “papillae”
on the eyelid lining. The initial symptoms of GPC will be itching, an increase in mucous production, a desire to remove your lenses early in the day, and a gritty, foreign body feeling AFTER removing your contacts. You may also notice that your contacts tend to ride up under your lid or dislocate off the eye quite easily. This is due to the “sticky” nature of GPC.
GPC is not serious and will not affect your vision permanently, but it can be frustrating. It will require that you reduce the wearing time of your contacts from a few hours each day to total abstinence for a week to several months. The papillae may remain on the inside of your lids from weeks to years. This means that extra care in lens cleaning and frequent replacements may be necessary. Switching to a one-day disposable soft lens or even a rigid contact lens may allow for a more normal wearing schedule while the condition slowly resolves. There are also new prescription eye drops that show great promise in relieving symptoms of GPC.
Wearers of regular (as opposed to disposable) soft contact lenses are at least ten times more susceptible to GPC than rigid (gas-permeable) contact lens wearers. If you sleep in your disposables, you are probably 3 times more likely to have GPC symptoms than if you removed them daily.
Chemical Pink Eye – Not Contagious:
Chemical pink eye can result when any irritating substance enters the eyes. Common offending irritants are household cleaners, sprays of any kind, smoke, smog, paint, pesticides and industrial pollutants.
Prompt, thorough washing of the eyes with very large amounts of cool water is critical.Your ophthalmologist should be contacted at once, even if you think the irritant or chemical is safe because some of the more common household products like bleach and furniture polish can be the most damaging.
Underlying Diseases – Not Contagious:
Persistent conjunctivitis can be a sign of anuncommon underlying illness in the body. Most often these are rheumatic diseases,
such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus. Conjunctivitis is also seen in Kawasaki’s disease (a rare disease associated with fever in infants and young children)and certain inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Conjunctivitis requires medical attention. Appropriate treatment depends upon the cause of the conjunctivitis. Like the common cold, there is no cure for viral conjunctivitis; however, the symptoms can be relieved with cool compresses and artificial tears. Viral conjunctivitis usually resolves within 3 weeks.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is generally treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments that cover a broad range of bacteria. For the worst cases, topical steroid drops may be prescribed to reduce the discomfort from inflammation. For allergic conjunctivitis, cool compresses and artificial tears sometimes relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines may be prescribed. Some patients with persistent allergic conjunctivitis may also require topical steroid drops. For giant papillary conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe eye drops to reduce inflammation and itching.