Pink Eye Conjunctivitis and Effects

Published: 28th February 2009
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Conjunctivitis, or more commonly known as "Pink Eye", is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the outermost layer of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. The condition is most commonly due to an allergic reaction or an infection. It is usually viral but can sometimes also be bacterial.

There are 3 variations of the condition. Blepharoconjunctivitis is the combination of conjunctivitis with blepharitis or inflammation of the eyelids. Keratoconjunctivitis is the combination of conjunctivitis and keratitis or corneal inflammation. Episcleritis is an inflammatory condition that produces a similar appearance to conjunctivitis, but without any discharge or tearing. The viral and bacterial forms of conjunctivitis are extremely contagious and can be caused by coming into contact with other individuals who are already infected by the condition.

Their are several symptoms affiliated with conjunctivitis, they are but limited to: redness (hyperaemia), irritation (chemosis) and watering (epiphora) of the eyes are symptoms common to all forms of the condition. Acute allergic conjunctivitis is normally very itchy, sometimes distressingly so, and often involves some swelling of the eyelids. Chronic allergy often causes just itch or irritation. Viral conjunctivitis is often associated with an infection of the upper respiratory tract, a common cold, and/or a sore throat. The symptoms include itching and water dischrage. The infection usually begins with one eye, but may spread easily to the other eye.

Bacterial conjunctivitis due to the common pyogenic (pus-producing) bacteria causes marked grittiness/irritation and a stringy, opaque, grey or yellowish mucopurulent discharge sometimes referred to gowl, goop, or "eye crust" that may cause the lids to stick together or matting especially after sleep. Another symptom that could be caused by Bacterial Conjunctivitis is severe crusting of the infected eye and the surrounding skin. However, discharge is not essential to the diagnosis, contrary to popular belief. Many other bacteria (e.g., Trachoma form of (Chlamydia), Moraxella) can cause a non-exudative but very persistent conjunctivitis without much redness. The gritty and/or scratchy feeling is sometimes localized enough for patients to insist they must have a something in the eye. The more acute pyogenic infections can be very painful. Like viral conjunctivitis, it usually affects only one eye but may spread easily to the other eye. However, it is dormant in the eye for three days before the patient shows signs of any symptoms.

Irritant or toxic conjunctivitis is irritable or painful when the infected eye is pointed far down or far up. Discharge and itch are usually non-existent. This is the only group in which severe pain can occur.

Inclusion conjunctivitis of the newborn (ICN) is a conjunctivitis that may be caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, and may lead to acute, purulent conjunctivitis. However, it is usually self-healing.

Redness of the conjunctiva on one or both of the eyes should be apparent, but may be quite mild. Except in obvious pyogenic or toxic/chemical conjunctivitis, a slit lamp (biomicroscope) is required for a thorough diagnosis. Examination of the tarsal conjunctiva is usually more diagnostic than the bulbar conjunctiva.

Allergic conjunctivitis exhbits pale watery swelling or edema of the conjunctiva and sometimes the whole eyelid, often with a ropy, non-purulent mucoid discharge. There is varied redness.

Viral conjunctivitis, commonly known as "pink eye", shows a fine diffuse pinkness of the conjunctiva which is easily mistaken for the 'ciliary injection' of iritis, but there are usually corroborative signs on biomicroscopy, particularly numerous lymphoid follicles on the tarsal conjunctiva, and sometimes a punctate keratitis.

Pyogenic bacterial conjunctivitis shows an opaque purulent discharge and on biomicroscopy there are numerous white cells and desquamated epithelial cells seen in the 'tear gutter' along the edge of the lid margin. The tarsal conjunctiva is a silky red and not particularly follicular. Non-pyogenic infections can show just mild infection and be difficult to diagnose. Scarring of the tarsal conjunctiva is occasionally seen in chronic infections, especially in trachoma.

Irritant or toxic conjunctivitis show primarily distinct redness. If due to splash injury, it is often present only in the lower conjunctival sac. With some chemicals-above all with caustic alkalis such as sodium hydroxide-there may be necrosis of the conjunctiva with a deceptively white eye due to vascular closure, followed by sloughing of the dead epithelium. This is likely to be associated with slit-lamp evidence of anterior uveitis.

The leading cause of a "pink eye" is a bacterial infection. A number of various bacteria can be responsible for the infection. Bacterial pink eye symptoms are usually associated with more of a discharge that is yellow or green in color. Often, bacterial "cold-like" symptoms, such as sinus congestion and a runny nose exist. The eyelids may be swollen. Sometimes looking at bright lights is painful. While bacterial pink eye may not require an antibiotic, those affected should see a eye doctor or eyecare phyisican, as occasionally this form of pink eye can be associated with infection of the cornea (the clear portion of the front of the eyeball). This infection must be correctly detected and treated. Bacterial pink eye is highly contagious, but usually resolves in 7 to 10 days after symptoms appear.

Conjunctivitis sometimes requires medical attention from a professional optometrist. The appropriate treatment depends on the actual cause of the condition. For the allergic type, cool water poured over the face with the head inclined downward constricts capillaries, and artificial tears sometimes relieve some of the discomfort in the more milder cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines may be prescribed. Some patients with persistent allergic conjunctivitis may also require topical steroid eye drops. Please consult an eyecare physician for treatment and proper diagnosis.

People with Pink Eye Conjunctivitis can reduce their risk of blindness by 95 percent with timely treatment and appropriate, consistent eye care.

Click here to read the rest of Pink Eye Conjunctivitis. If you enjoyed this article, you also might like our other stories about Austin County Eye Care.

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