Inflammation of this area results in redness of the eye or eyes and therefore lends to it the more common lay term of Pink Eye or Red Eye. The condition is often associated with a burning sensation, or gritty or sandy sensation, of the eye. Sometimes there can be present a mucous or even a pus-like yellow, white, or green discharge from the eye or eyes. The mucous discharge can lead to crusting together of the two eyelids during sleep, resulting in a shut eye in the morning.
There are many causes of conjunctivitis or Pink Eye, and they can include Infection, Allergy, Chemical or Physical irritation of the eye. Infections by viruses are, overwhelmingly, the most common cause of Infectious Conjunctivitis, while a more serious bacterial infectious is far less common but can occur. In addition there are other conditions that mimic conjunctivitis.
Viral infection induced conjunctivitis can typically last for 1-3 weeks. The most common cause of viral conjunctivitis is usually from one of several viruses in a family of viruses called Adenovirus (but several other viruses can cause it as well). This is an important family of viruses and they are well-known to cause upper respiratory infections, leading to common-cold-like symptoms. Indeed, many people who get Conjunctivitis will often describe a common-cold like illness in either themselves or in a family member, friend, or co-worker before the onset of their Pink Eye. These viruses are highly infectious and can spread easily and quickly. People may sneeze into their hand, cough on the receiver of the phone, or rub their eyes and thereafter transmit the infection to others who come into contact with the person infected or the contaminated surfaces. Viral Conjunctivitis resolves without treatment.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis is a more serious concern and can give rise to similar or some of the same symptoms. There can be some clues to make bacterial conjunctivitis suspected more. Bacterial conjunctivitis is often associated with a thicker or heavier discharge that continues throughout the day, and it is most often limited to one eye (bilateral conjunctivitis involving both eyes is almost always due a viral infection). Bacterial conjunctivitis must be treated with antibiotics applied topically to the eye, and in some cases receive oral antibiotics as well.
Most cases of Pink Eye/conjunctivitis in the community are either viral conjunctivitis or due to an allergic cause. Some of these cases can be managed over the phone. Some useful tips for cases that do require in-clinic or prompt evaluation are the following:
+ Is Vision affected? Can you still read ordinary print with the affected eye? Anyone with impaired or changed vision should present for prompt evaluation
+ Is there a foreign body sensation? Does it feel as if there is something in your eye and is preventing you from opening your eye? Anyone with these symptoms needs prompt evaluation as these are signs of corneal involvement or the true presence of an embedded foreign body
+ Is light hurting your eyes or are you sensitive to bright light. This is called photophobia and this also requires physician evaluation.
+ Was there any eye trauma recently (finger poke, or being hit). Such a history of trauma requires prompt evaluation.
+ Do you wear contact lens? Wearing contact lenses and having the onset of a pink eye and discharge requires evaluation by a physician.
+ Is there discharge and does the discharge continue throughout the day? Morning crusting is common in most forms of conjunctivitis, while a continuing thick discharge needs to be evaluated.