Definition

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the tissue that covers the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. It is called the conjunctiva.

Eye with Conjunctivitis
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Causes

There are many causes, such as:

  • Virus
  • Bacteria
  • Allergens, such as seasonal allergies
  • Chemicals from things like air pollutants and chlorine

Risk Factors

The bacterial form is more common in children.

Things that may raise the risk are:

  • Spending time in crowded or close spaces
  • Contact with an infected person
  • Sharing towels, linens, or other items with an infected person
  • Having seasonal allergies or contact with known allergens
  • Being around chemical irritants
  • Wearing contact lenses

Symptoms

Symptoms are:

  • Teary eyes
  • Pink color in the white part of the eye
  • Swelling of the eyelid
  • Itching or burning eyes
  • Pus-like discharge
  • Sensitivity to light

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. An eye exam will be done. Eye discharge may be checked for signs of infection.

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the cause.

Medicine

Most forms of conjunctivitis clear up with time. Some people may be given antibiotic eye drops or ointment to treat the bacterial form. Antibiotics cannot treat the viral form.

Artificial tears may be used. Some may have antihistamines in them to further ease symptoms. These are found at many stores.

Home Care

These methods may help ease problems:

  • Cold or warm compresses
  • Avoiding any causes of irritation
  • Not wearing contact lenses until problems are gone

Prevention

To lower the chance of this problem:

  • Use good hand hygiene.
  • Do not share personal items with others.
  • Do not share makeup or eye drops with others.
  • Avoid allergens.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019 -
  • Update Date: 11/21/2019 -