Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of conjunctiva, a transparent membrane which coats the eye lids and the outer eye to the cornea edge. This disorder can cause an infection or allergy.
An infection is usually caused by contaminated fingers, towels, or face napkins. However, in newborns, it may be due to an infection from the mother’s birth canal; this condition, known as ophthalmia neonatorum (neonatal conjunctivitis), is very difficult.
In all cases of infectious conjunctivitis, sclera is red and hurts. A pus is then created in the eye; it ”glues” the eyelashes overnight and creates a crust. Bacterial infection usually affects both eyes and there is a lot of discharge (pus), while viral infection is usually limited to only one eye and with less discharge.
Causes of allergic conjunctivitis are allergies to pollen, cosmetic or other substances. Symptoms are long-lasting redness and itching of sclera, but without discharge; this form, which occurs in children and young adults throughout the year, but tends to be heavier when the air is full of pollen, is known as the spring catharsis. In rare cases, conjunctivae suddenly becomes swollen, usually in the pollen season, and that swelling disappears after several hours.
Conjunctivitis is very common. Each year, one in every 50 people comes to the doctor asking for help because of that discomfort. This is a painful disorder, but it is usually not serious – unless it is ophthalmia neonatorum.
What to do?
If you suspect that you have conjunctivitis, contact your doctor immediately. If you have any of the symptoms of infectious conjunctivitis, avoid spreading – wash your hands after touching your eyes and use a special towel and a face napkin.
In cases of infectious conjunctivitis caused by bacteria, the doctor will prescribe the antibiotic drops or ophthalmic ointment that you will apply after you have removed/washed the pus from the eyelashed with warm water. After a week or two, conjunctivitis will probably disappear. Viral infections usually disappear by themselves although, in some cases, they last for several weeks. Newborns with ophthalmia neonatorum are treated in a hospital with antibiotic droplets.
If you can determine the cause of allergic conjunctivitis, you may be able to cure it with antihistamine eye drops that you can get without a prescription. Nevertheless, contact your doctor.