Also known as viral conjunctivitis, is a benign, common, highly contagious and self-limited condition that affects the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye known as the conjunctiva. It is typically caused by adenovirus, but other different types include HSV or herpes simplex virus, VZV or varicella-zoster virus and HIV human immunodeficiancy virus. It can last from 7-14 days.

Three percent of all visits to the emergency department are ocular related, and of this, thirty percent of the complaints are because of pink eye.

Cases are spread through families, schools, offices, residential communities, military organizations, parks, and nurseries.

It is spread equally among men and women and affects people from all ages.

Symptoms

The symptoms include itchy, burning eyes, increased tear production, light sensitivity, redness or pink in the white part of the eye or sclera, swelling of the thin layer that lines the sclera,  and the conjunctiva,  and discharge and crusting found in eyelids or the lashes in the morning.

Depending on the cause, some patients may have other symptoms such as common cold or flu, and measles.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis is made mostly clinically. There is no need to do lab tests to see if you have conjunctivitis or not, but can be very helpful in some cases if needed.

Treatment

Since the disease is caused by virus, it is self limited; so symptoms that bother are the ones being treated and not the virus itself.

 At home you can take care of some of the symptoms by putting a warm, damp cloth over your eyes for a few minutes. Make sure it is not dripping and not to use it on the other eye to avoid infection. Take over the counter medicines like ibuprofen to stop the pain sensation and help swelling disappear. Over the counter artificial tears will help your eye lubricate and fight a secondary bacterial infection. To wash your eyelids, no-tear baby shampoo can be used and won’t make your eye any more irritative and will help you take off the crusty, yellow discharge.

Complications

Complications and chronicity are very rare, a symblepharon, which is the union of the eyelid and the eyeball, may occur, scarring in the conjunctiva layer, severe dry eye, astigmatism, ulcers in cornea, and secondary infections that if left untreated can affect other parts of your body such as the brain causing a very dangerous disease called meningitis or sepsis.

Prevention

Being highly contagious, it is important for you to take isolation and contagion measures for at least 2 weeks or as long as the eyes are constantly tearing or red.

Remember to wash your hands constantly to avoid infecting the other eye or other people in your surroundings.

If the symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, or loss of vision appears, you should seek professional help to assess and find another treatment for you. Usually antibiotics will be added  by a professional health care giver like chloramphenicol, and fusidic acid if a secondary infection is found.

Avoid red- reducing eye drops like Visine because it might worsen your symptoms. Change your pillowcases and sheets every day, use a fresh towel every day, don’t share your things with others and avoid using contact lenses until the infection is all cleared up. Eye makeup is not recommended while you have an infection, so changing your old ones would be advisable to avoid a re-infection.

References:

  • https://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/clinical.html
  • https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1191370-treatment#d15
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/conjunctivitis/treatment/#infective-conjunctivitis
  • https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/pink-eye-quick-home-remedies
  • picture source: https://www.pexels.com
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