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Conjunctivitis

The delicate membrane which lines the inside of the eyelid is called the conjunctiva.  Then this becomes inflamed, usually because of a bacterial or viral infection or an allergic reaction, the condition is called conjunctivitis.

How do I know if I have conjunctivitis:

Often, the eye is quite red, but conjunctivitis involves more than that.  Patients may say their eye feels "scratchy", as though there is something in it.  Swelling may make the eyelid look puffy.  Especially with allergic conjunctivitis, the eye may feel itchy and be producing strands of mucus.  A bacterial infection usually causes drainage of pus, and patients may awaken to find that their eyelashes are matted.  A viral infection typically causes tearing.

Is it contagious?

When it's caused by an infection, it is.  In fact, you can spread conjunctivitis from one eye to the other through contamination on your hands.  To avoid passing the infection along, wash your hands carefully and avoid sharing towels or pillows with others during your infection.   If you are wear contact lenses, do not use your lenses until the infection has cleared.   Be certain to wash your contact lenses well before using them again after this infection.

When should I see a doctor?

Any time you have a sudden decrease in the clarity of your vision that may cause an irritation or discomfort, drainage of pus or excessive itching along with redness in your eyes, you may have conjunctivitis.  There are other more serious eye problems which will cause pain, visual blurring and a significant sensitivity to light which also require an evaluation but are not symptoms of conjunctivitis 

How is conjunctivitis treated?

Allergic conjunctivitis is treated with eyedrops that decrease the itching sensation so characteristic of this problem.  These drops contain an antihistamine.  This problem is not considered an infection.  Rinsing your eye with cool compresses is quite soothing.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with eyedrops or ointment that are directed at the bacteria causing this infection.  These medications are used three or four times a day for 5 days maximum.

Viral Conjunctivitis can last 10 days and resolves on its own without the need of antibiotics.  Artificial tears are comforting.

Rinsing your eye with warm soaks is soothing for both the bacterial and viral infections.

We recommend using baby shampoo to clean the residue off your eyes before applying the medication.  Baby shampoo is used so as not to sting your eyes especially in the event of an infection or irritation. Women who use eye makeup should avoid using these products during the infection and throw away any makeup that may have been used during the early stages of the infection.

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