What is conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the thin, clear membrane (conjunctiva) that covers the white of the eye and the inside surface of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is most often caused by a virus but also can be caused by bacterial infection, allergies (e.g., cosmetics, pollen) and chemical irritation.
How is it spread?
Anyone can get conjunctivitis. It can spread fairly easily from person to person, especially in dormitories, schools or other places where large numbers of persons congregate. People commonly get conjunctivitis by coming into contact with the tears or other eye discharges of an infected person, and then touching their own eyes. Hands, towels and washcloths can spread conjunctivitis. Symptoms normally appear a few days after contact with an infected person or an object contaminated with the virus (such as a towel).
Individuals with conjunctivitis may be contagious as long as symptoms persist or the eye appears abnormal. Risk of conjunctivitis increases with use of contact lenses, and touching/rubbing the eyes without handwashing first.
What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis?
Symptoms of conjunctivitis may include the following:
Viral conjunctivitis often begins with fairly sudden onset of pain or the feeling of dust in the eye. Infection may begin in only one eye but often spreads to involve both.
Should I contact a doctor if I develop symptoms of conjunctivitis?
You should contact your health care provider
Other concerns, including the duration of your conjunctivitis symptoms, whether or not your symptoms are improving as expected, etc., should also be shared with your health care provider.
How is conjunctivitis treated?
Treatment varies with the cause. There is no curative treatment for common viral conjunctivitis; it usually will go away by itself in one to six weeks. Lubricating eye drops sometimes help to ease symptoms. (Do not share these eye drops with other persons.) If symptoms last for more than 24-48 hours, or vision is affected, it is important to be seen by a health care practitioner. Other kinds of conjunctivitis often have specific treatments that may be prescribed.
A person with conjunctivitis should follow these general guidelines:
Should contact lens wearers take special precautions?
Can conjunctivitis be prevented?
Conjunctivitis can be prevented by practicing good hygiene.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Questions or Comments