What is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis or pink eye is an infection or swelling of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the thin membrane that lines the eyelids.
Causes of Conjunctivitis
Different types of pink eye have different causes. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae and several viruses can all cause conjunctivitis. Allergies to pollen, animal dander and other irritants can also cause pink eye. STDs are dangerous to newborns as they can cause conjunctivitis and even blindness as they are being born. Contact lenses and several other irritants can all result in pink eye.
Medications for Conjunctivitis
There are over 34 different drugs that can be used in the treatment of pink eye. Corticosteroids are used to decrease inflammation and two of these drugs are AK-Dex and Aristocort. Another treatment for inflammation is Alomide and works by stabilizing mast cells. Alrex Eyedrops (loteprednol) are used for pink eye resulting from allergies. Maxidex is another anti inflammatory that is used to treat allergic pink eye. Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections. Cetamide, a sulfacetamide is a common treatment for bacterial infections. Another antibiotic is Sodium Sulamyd. Bleph-10 is a sulfonamide that prevents growth of folic acid, a substance needed by bacteria to grow. Rocephin is a cephalospoin that fights against the bacteria in the eye. Lotemax, a corticosteroid, is used during both bacterial and viral infections to decrease the redness, itching and swelling in the eyes.
Prevention of Pink Eye
There are a few steps individuals can take to prevent conjunctivitis. Pregnant women with STDs should inform their obstetrician. Those prone to allergies would do well to avoid the pathogens that cause the allergic reactions. To prevent bacterial infection do not share eye make-up and replace it frequently. Change pillowcases regularly. Do not use someone else’s handkerchiefs or towels. Wash hands regularly and try not to rub or touch the eyes. Be sure to keep contact lenses clean and handle them carefully.
Risk Factors for Pink Eye
One of the biggest risk factors of conjunctivitis is being exposed to the virus or bacteria that cause the illness. Those who suffer from allergies are also more prone to pink eye. Individuals who do not take sanitary precautions such as washing hands and not sharing personal items can also be at risk. This is especially true of children.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
Most of the different types of pink eye have the same symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Crust on the eyelids
- Excessive tearing
- A feeling of grit in the eyes.
- Itchiness and pain
- Mild to severe redness
- Light sensitivity and excessive tearing.
Treatment of Pink Eye
Conjunctivitis caused by allergies can be treated with cold compresses and removal of the allergen. Pink eye that is the result of bacteria is treated with an antibiotic eye drops or ointments. Viral conjunctivitis has no cure but the symptoms can be treated. Decongestants and antihistamines will reduce swelling and vasoconstrictors will decrease the redness.
Types of Conjunctivitis
There are 7 different types of pink eye as follows:
- Bacterial conjuctivitis-this type of pink eye is very common and is spread through exposure to contaminated items. In this case antibiotics are required to cure the illness and are usually administered topically.
- Viral conjunctivitis-this infection is also very common and very contagious. Viral illnesses can transfer from person to person in the air so a cough or a sneeze can quickly spread the virus.
- Chlamydial and Gonococcal conjuctivitis-this type of infection is related to STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Newborns can catch this when passing through the mother's birth canal. Trachoma, a type of Chlamydia can cause blindness.
- Neonatal conjunctivitis-this is found in babies and can cause eye infections or blindness. Both chlamydia and herpes simplex virus can cause pink eye.
- Allergic conjuctivitis-this type of pink eye is also very common. It is the result of dander, dust, and other allergens.
- Giant papillary conjunctivitis- this infection if very common with those who wear soft contacts. It usually effects both eyes and can be very itchy and painful.
- Non-infectious conjunctivitis-irritation of the eye can be due to several different factors including smoke, perfume, exhaust and different types of chemicals.