Conjunctivitis, commonly known as "pink eye," is an inflammation of the membrane
(conjunctiva) that covers the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelid. There
are four main causes of conjunctivitis.
One cause involves the introduction of either bacterial or viral microorganisms
into the eye. These may be transmitted to the eye by contaminated hands, washcloths
or towels, cosmetics (particularly eye makeup), false eyelashes or extended wear
Minor conjunctivitis can accompany a viral cold or flu. Although bacterial and some
of the viral infections (particularly herpes) are not very common, they are potentially
serious. Both types of infection are contagious.
Irritants are another cause of conjunctivitis. Offenders of this type include air
pollutants, smoke, soap, hairspray, makeup, chlorine, cleaning fluids, etc.
Seasonal allergic response to grass and other pollens can cause some individuals
to acquire conjunctivitis.
Pink eye may be more serious if you have a condition that decreases your ability
to fight infection (impaired immune system), and/or vision in only one eye or you
wear contact lenses.
Various combinations of the following symptoms may be present: itching, redness,
sensitivity to light, feeling as if something is in the eye, swelling of the lids
and/or discharge from the eyes. The consistency of possible discharge may range
from watery to pus-like, depending on the specific cause of the conjunctivitis.
Vision may be affected from the increase in tear production.
It usually takes a few days to two weeks to clear most types of conjunctivitis to
clear. Conjunctivitis due to an allergy may continue as long as the offending pollen
is present. Under such conditions, symptoms are likely to recur each year.
Diagnosis consists of physical examination of the eye by the clinician. Cultures
are not necessary for the initial diagnosis, but may be needed if the initial treatment
does not resolve infection.
Treatment varies depending on the cause. Medications in the form of ointments, drops
or pills may be recommended to help kill the germ infecting the eye, relieve allergic
symptoms and decrease discomfort. In the case of conjunctivitis due to a viral cold
or flu, the practitioner may recommend that you be patient and let it run its course.
OTHER MEASURES THAT SHOULD BE FOLLOWED:
· Apply cool compresses to the infected eye(s) three to four times per day for 10-15
minutes using a clean washcloth each time. This should help reduce itching and swelling
and provide some comfort.
· Wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your eyes in order to reduce
or prevent recontamination.
· Avoid rubbing your eyes to decrease irritation of the area.
· Wear sunglasses if your eyes are sensitive to the light.
· Avoid exposure to the irritants that may be causing the conjunctivitis.
· Dispose of old eye makeup if the culture for bacteria is positive.
· Use a clean pillowcase each night. (Pillowcase can be changed every other day
and turned over nightly).
· Avoid wearing contact lenses while you are using medications or if your eyes are
uncomfortable. Cleanse contact lenses and contact lens care thoroughly before wearing.
· Thoroughly clean your contact case before placing new contacts in it.
Although many kinds of conjunctivitis are hard to prevent, there are measures that
can be taken to decrease your risk of reacquiring or spreading it to someone else.
These are listed below:
· Do not share eye makeup or cosmetics of any kind with anyone.
· Avoid sharing washcloths or towels.
· Wash hands frequently and keep away from the eyes.
· Wear protective goggles (i.e., for swimming or working) if you must be exposed
to chemicals that are irritating.
· Do not use medication (eye drops, ointment, etc.) that has been prescribed for
· Avoid swimming in non-chlorinated pools or stagnant lakes or ponds.
· Do not save medication - dispose of it when treatment is completed and check for
If any of the following problems should occur, notify your clinician:
· Visual changes
· Severe eye pain
· Pain when moving eyes
· No improvement with medication within 48 hours
· Drainage continues after you have completed full course of medication
· Roommates or other family members develop symptoms
· Eyes become very sensitive to light
DIRECTIONS FOR USING EYE DROPS OR OINTMENT